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THE COLLECTED PLAYS OF 
W SOMERSET MAUGHAM 

VOL II 



LIZA OF LAMBETH 

MRS CRADDOCK 

THE MERRY-GO-ROUND 

THE EXPLORER 

THE MAGICIAN 

THE MOON AND SIXPENCE 

OF HUMAN BONDAGE 

THE TREMBLING OF A LEAF 

ON A CHINESE SCREEN 

THE PAINTED VEIL 

THE CASUARINA TREE 

ASHENDEN 

THE GENTLEMAN IN THE PARLOUR 

CAKES AND ALE 

THE FIRST PERSON SINGULAR 

THE NARROW CORNER 

AH KING 

DON FERNANDO 

COSMOPOLITANS 

THEATRE 

THE SUMMING UP 
CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY 
THE MIXTURE AS BEFORE 
BOOKS AND YOU 
UP AT THE VILLA 
STRICTLY PERSONAL 
THE RAZOR’S EDGE 
THEN AND NOW 

HERE AND there (Collection of Short Stones) 

CREATURES 0% CIRCUMSTANCE 

CATALINA 

quartet (Four Short Stones with Film Scripts) 
trio ( Three Short Stories with Film Scripts ) 
encore ( Three Short Stories with Film Scripts) 

A WRITERS NOTEBOOK 

THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES (3 Vols) 

THE SELECTED NOVELS (3 Vols) 

THE PARTIAL VIEW 

TEN NOVELS AND THEIR AUTHORS 


VOL 1 


The Collected Plays 


LADY FREDERICK VOL 2 

MRS DOT 

JACK STRAW 

PENELOPE 

SMITH 

THE LAND OF PROMISE 


OUR BETTERS 

THE UNATTAINABLE 

HOME AND BEAUTY 

THE CIRCLE 

THE CONSTANT WIFE 

THE BREADWINNER 


vol 3 c^sar’s wife 

EAST OF SUEZ 

THE SACRED FLAME 

THE UNKNOWN 

FOR SERVICES RENDERED 

SHEPPEY 



THE COLLECTED 
♦ PLAYS ♦ 

of 

W. SOMERSET 

MAUGHAM 

VOL II 



WILLIAM HEINEMANN LTD 

MELBOURNE LONDON TORONTO 



THE COLLECTED PLAYS 
FIRST PUBLISHED I93I 
REPRINTED 1952 , I955 


PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN 
AT THE WINDMILL PRESS 
KINGSWOOD, SURREY 



THE COLLECTED PLAYS OF W SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


OUR BETTERS 
THE UNATTAINABLE 
HOME AND BEAUTY 
THE CIRCLE 
THE CONSTANT WIFE 
THE BREADWINNER 




PREFACE 


The three plays following are placed in the order m which 
they were written Our Betters , though it was not acted m 
London till 1923, and then only “with a scene at the end of 
the second act altered to suit the exigencies of the Lord 
Chamberlain, was written in Rome at the beginning of 1915 
When at last it was produced I extracted a certain amount 
of discreet amusement from such of the critics as found in 
it a development of characteristics that they had discovered 
m plays produced before but written much later I may 
add m passing that m this edition I have reverted to my 
original version It was more probable and I do not see 
that it was more shocking In the few years that have passed 
audiences have become used to greater frankness, and if 
the play were ever revived I have little doubt that the word 
slut used by one of the characters, which made the spectators 
on the first night gasp with horror, would now fail entirely 
to express the speaker's indignation The Unattainable was 
produced under the name of Caroline , and it gave Irene 
Vanbrugh the opportunity for one of the best performances 
of her distinguished career I had a somewhat unusual 
experience with this play I wrote it in Geneva during the 
autumn of 19 1 5 It was engaged m work for the Intelligence 
Department which the Swiss authorities did not approve 
of, and my predecessor had had a nervous breakdown owing 
to the strain it put upon his temperament, more sensitive 
than mine, to break the law, my colleague at Lausanne had 
lately been sent to prison for two years I did not know 
how political prisoners were treated and I had no notion 
whether, should such an unpleasant fate befall me, I should 
be allowed pens and paper I hated the idea of leaving the 
play unfinished, and I knew it would be very difficult to 
take it up again after a long interval It was a great relief 



to me when I wrote the last line I sent it to London, and 
it was put into rehearsal at once I had written the whole 
play up to a great comic scene in the last act, a scene of 
mistaken identity in the classic manner, which m imagina- 
tion had very much amused me, and, indeed, it was on my 
exuberant description of this scene that Irene Vanbrugh had 
accepted the plav I managed to get a few days’ leave and 
went to London for the final rehearsals The date was fixed 
for production Things were very well advanced The caste 
was word-perfect I sat through the first two acts and was 
not dissatisfied, the play seemed to have come through very 
much as I had seen it m my mind’s eye, but I was awaiting 
the scene which I expected to prove the climax of the 
comedy A very good actor, George Tully, had been engaged 
to play in it The persons concerned started They went 
through it and they acted it very well To my dismay I 
discovered that it did not amuse me at all Here was a pretty 
kettle of fishl It took up two-thirds of the last act, and it was 
to lead up to it that the first two acts had been devised It 
seemed to me that there was but one thing to do I waited till 
the rehearsal was finished and then, telling Dion Bouacault, 
who was producing it, that this would not do at all, asked 
him to give me twenty-four hours, took the script home 
and rewrote the last act I left out the scene that had so 
much disappointed me, and with it the character that George 
Tully was to act The play now offered to the reader is the 
result I do not know that it is an author’s business to point 
out to his readers the defects of his work, but if I were a 
critic I should perhaps feel it my duty to make the observa- 
tion that the play really is finished by the end of the first 
act What follows might have very well been left to the 
imagination of the audience 

The same stem critic might make the same objection to 
Home and Beauty y the third play in this volume, and m each 
case the answer might be given, in extenuation, that a 
certain number of diverting scenes do what is possible to 
atone for the failure to adhere to the strict canons of drama 



PREFACE 


IX 


Home and beauty was written in a sanatorium during the last 
winter of the war I had escaped a Swiss prison, but the 
work I was engaged in had much exposed me to the rigours 
of a singularly bad winter and I had contracted tuberculosis 
of the lungs This had been aggravated by a sojourn in 
Russia, and when on the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks 
I was obliged to come back to England, I was feeling very 
sorry for myself It was impossible then to go to Davos 
or St Moritz, so I went to Scotland It was a very pleasant 
life at Nordrach-on-Dee I was sent to bed every day at 
six o’clock, and an early dinner gave me a long evening to 
myself The cold, windless night entered the room through 
the wide-open windows, and with mittens on my hands so 
that I could comfortably hold a pen, it was an admirable 
opportunity to write a farce For Home and Beauty pretends 
to be no more I never had an opportunity of seeing it, but 
I believe it made people laugh very much Some of the 
critics called it cruel and heartless I should not have thought 
it was It was written in the highest possible spirits It was 
intended to amuse 

So, for the matter of that, where the other two plays The 
reader of the previous preface to this edition of my plays 
will not be surprised at my confession that I think tins is 
the business of a comedy / To my mind it is not a work 
of edification, though it should be a work of art, and if it 
castigates the follies of the moment that is by the way 
and only m so far as this no doubt laudable pro*, ess occasions 
laughter The object is the entertainment of the audience, 
not their improvement / 

I am conscious that my plays ate classed by the learned 
who write books on the drama and contribute articles to 
encyclopedias as'commeroal theatre/and it is true that on 
the whole the managers have made money out of them and 
I have kept the wolf some distance from my door 
^The difficulty of the drama as an art lies for the most part 
in its dependence on the audience An audience is a crowd 
and art as we know has nothing to do with the multitude* 



preface 


The working classes, absorbed m the daily effort of provid- 
ing for the needs of the body, have little energy left over to 
cultivate the disinterested emotions of art The upper 
classes know nothing of it and care less They feign some- 
times an interest in it when fashion suggests such a pose as a 
social distinction Great ladies then cultivate those occupied 
with the arts as in former times they kept buffoons An 
interest in art is found, if m any class at all, most commonly 
perhaps in the middle ranks of society A German observer 
of this country has stated that it is almost exclusively con- 
fined to the northern and western suburbs of London Even 
here it must be rare, for it needs not only a natural instinct, 
which is uncommon, but an elaborate cultivation That the 
two are necessary is shown by the fact that a true feeling for 
one of the arts by no means entails feeling for the others a 
man may have admirable taste in pictures and none at all in 
literature or musjc The appeal of the arts then is to the 
very few 

But the drama cannot do with that It must address itself 
equally to the working man in the gallery and to the gilded 
youth in the stalls It must interest the stock-jobber who 
reads nothing but The Financial Times and the elderly 
spinster whose soul is sweet with memories of Italy and 
Greece Attempts have been made from time to time to 
separate the various classes of playgoers It has been 
suggested that certain plays should be written with the idea 
of attracting a limited, intellectual section, rather than the 
public at large, but the attempts have failed, as indeed an 
elementary acquaintance with the philosophy of the subject 
would have shown was inevitable, and the difficulty still 
remains to move, amuse and entertain an audience composed 
of persons with every variety of education and intelligence f 
It would be impossible if the audience consisted simply of 
the aggregation of individuals, but the play forms it into a 
distinct organism with characteristics peculiar to itself It 
seems obvious that'the audience is as much part of the play 
as the words and their interpreters,, I read once a French 



PREFACE 


XI 


criticism in which the theory was advanced that the reading 
of a play was the only test of its merit on the stage one was 
influenced by the skill of the actors, the elaborateness of the 
setting and the emotions of one’s fellow spectators I think 
this is nonsense The play that is read differs not at all from 
that monstrous product, once fashionable, the novel in 
dialogue A play exists without an audience as little as a 
colour without a spectator If plays have maintained 
through the many centuries since the drama arose “in a rude 
and unpremeditated manner” from the worship of Dionysus, 
certain main traits, it is owing not to the imitativeness of the 
dramatists, but to the unaltered characteristics of the crowd ^ 
I do not know if the psychology of the audience is capable of 
change, but it is clear from the most casual study of dramatic 
works since iEschylus that no great change has taken place in 
it hitherto 

The audience has a collective soul It feels, reacts, and 
thinks differently from what each member of it, taken 
separately, would do It is emotional rather than intel- 
lectual, and this gives it homogeneity, for however unlike 
men are by their intelligence, their passions are the same 
The audience is on a lower level of civilisation than the 
persons of which it is composed, and it may be for this 
reason that the theatre is a generation behind the culture of 
the age The opinions, ideas and beliefs which are suggested 
to an audience are accepted or rejected in the mass, un- 
critically, and are consideied either as absolute truths or as 
absolute errors An audience can only receive ideas when 
they are placed before it in their simplest form, and even 
then only when they agree with its own instinctive convic- 
tions 

An audience demands sympathy, which I take to be no 
more than direction of interest, for it is well-known that a 
sympathetic character need not be a virtuous one^It has a 
moral code which, according to the time, may be stricter or 
more lax than that of the individual At the present moment, 
m England at all events, it is shocked by things that would 



not shock the individual, though under the reign of Charles 
II, when probably the general morality was little different 
from what it is now, it accepted conduct which would have 
outraged him It is emotional, but at the same time has more 
commonsense than the individual It has its own theories of 
life which do not always coincide with life as known by the 
individual Though swayed by impulse it does not believe 
m it on the stage The individual can hardly have failed to 
notice that the actions of men are much influenced by their 
passions, but an audience insists that they shall be influenced 
only by reason It demands much stronger motives than are 
demanded in real life For example, it so often happens that 
men throw themselves into the water to save a perfect 
stranger from drowning that the newspapers seldom trouble 
to announce the fact, but on the stage if you made someone 
do anything of the kind the spectators would shrug their 
shoulders and say These things don’t happen You could 
only make the occurrence probable by giving at least three 
overwhelming personal reasons for such a piece of fool- 
hardiness An audience has also racial characteristics The 
English are not a sexual nation and you cannot easily 
persuade them that a man wall sacrifice anything important 
for love I do not think an English audience, notwith- 
standing the prestige of Shakespeare, ever really accepts the 
story of Antony and Cleopatra as credible It is this difference 
of attitude towards sexual passion that makes foreign plays 
so improbable to us 

It is clear that the dramatist’s business is with the audience 
as an organic whole and not with the persons who make it 
up As soon as they leave the theatre and go about their 
separate affairs they cease to be an audience and he has no 
further concern with them This reduces sensibly the 
didactic efficiency of the drama, on account of which writers 
have from time to time been attracted to the stage, for 
if the individual is so much inclined to hypnotic suggestion 
that he cannot shake off the emotions he has felt when his 
personality was fused in that of the audience, he is not a safe 



PREFACE 


XU1 


person to be trusted alone, and should promptly be shut up 
in an asylum 

The acute reader of the foregoing remarks ‘will see at 
once that they reduce dramatic criticism to a logical 
absurdity I wish for the sake of those who follow this 
calling that I could have concealed the fact from him But 
the deduction is too obvious The critic trains himself not 
to be influenced by the passions of the people who surround 
him, but m so doing he does not see the play which they see 
His r6le is to keep free from the contagion of the audience 
But the audience is so much part of the play that you cannot 
judge it unless you are the audience He aims at holding 
aloof from popular clamour, but it is only by popular 
clamour, the thrill that passes through the house, the 
excitement of propinquity, that the play exists Only one 
form of criticism is logically reasonable If a critic were so 
sensitive to the emotion about him that he could feel it m ail 
its subtlety and if he had at the same time the power to stand 
outside himself and note his sensations, his criticism would 
be, to the playwright at least, exceedingly useful But I 
suppose that a man with such gifts would in these democratic 
days rule empires rather than write dramatic criticism 

I beg the reader not to think that these remarks were 
designed to take the bread out of the mouths of that body 
of honest, industrious, long-suffermg and conscientious men 
who make their living by judging the current drama It was 
not indeed till I had set down in black and white my reflec- 
tions on the nature of an audience that it occurred to me that 
I had incidentally demonstrated the futility of dramatic 
criticism Nothing was further from my intention We 
greatly need m England a critic of authoritative position 
who would be capable of restating the limitations of 
the various arts, who had the culture and the knowledge 
of life to point out to those who overstepped the bound- 
aries that they were attempting the impossible, and whose 
philosophical attainments were sufficient to explain why 
the direction they were taking must lead to confusion 



XIV 


PREFACE 


For want of this the creators of art are at sixes and 
sevens They do not know exactly what they want to 
do nor what they can do Sculptors seek to imprison 
the momentary gesture in imperishable bronze, musicians 
describe events, poets paint landscapes, essayists write 
poems in prose (and what detestable, pretentious stuff), 
novelists write treatises of sociology, and dramatists 
reason 

It can hardly be denied that at the present time the drama 
of England is poor The reas on given for this is that the cost 
of production has so increased that managers hesitate to 
give new authors a hearing I do not think this is a fact 
The bills of the London theatres are no longer filled by well- 
established authors, as they were when first I began writing 
plays, but by authors who were till recently unheard of The 
experimental theatres have given them an opportunity they 
never had before and the dearth of plays is such that the 
managers will seize with alacrity upon anything that shows a 
likelihood of attracting an audience The way is open to the 
dramatist He has only to take it I think it is much more 
probable that the poverty of British drama is due to the fact 
that the playwrights have been influenced by false theories to 
adventure m a field which the nature of the drama forbids 
and for which they are temperamentally unfitted" They have 
been told that they must raise the theatre from the depths to 
which it has sunk They have been implored to produce 
something that the intelligent man can see without loss of 
self-respect They are on the whole a modest, sincere lot of 
men, anxious to do their best, and they have honestly tried 
to comply with the demands made on them 
A few pages back I acknowledged, I hope with becoming 
modesty, that my plays must be classed as commercial 
drama, but I did not stay to consider exactly what that 
signifies It is of course a term of depreciation It describes a 
play which is a source of profit to the manager and the 
a utho r and thus one which the public is willing to go and see 
for at least a hundred nights It infers a lack of artistic 



merit It is not immediately obvious why a play that people 
do not want to see is more artistic than one they do If 
commercial success is the test a certain difficulty arises It 
appears that Bernard Shaw was a commercial dramatist when 
he wrote St Joan and an artist when he wrote Back to 
Methuselah What are you going to think of Man and Super- 
man? When it was first written it was very distinctly 
uncommercial did it cease to be a work of art when it was 
produced by Robert Lorraine and everyone concerned made 
a great deal of money out of it> “Commercial” plays often 
fail too, four out of five is, I believe, the average, and the 
reasons for their failure are generally plain I will enumerate 
them a theme that does not interest, poor characterisation, 
faulty construction, verbose and heavy dialogue. Now it is a 
very strange thing, but if you examine the plays which are 
deliberately uncommercial and whose failure the judicious 
grieve at, you will find they suffer from one or all of these 
defects x In short the “uncommercial” theatre is uncom- 
mercial not because of its merits but because of its 
faults A “commercial” play is commercial because of 
its merits , 

It is an error to suppose that the writer of this sort of play 
writes only to make money A very small experience of the 
profession of letters teaches you that to write with this end 
is folly It is like happiness which is best achieved by not 
aiming at it You earn most money when you write merely 
to please yourself Of course you need not go out of your 
way to make things difficult You are not likely to attain 
domestic felicity if you give your wife a black eye and knock 
your children about, nor will you earn substantial royalties 
if you write a play about the incestuous relations of a family 
of mental deficients But now the intelligent reader sits up 
and takes notice That is what we want, he cries, that is the 
theatre of ideas All right Let us leave the commercial 
theatre and talk of the theatre of ideas 

Ideas appeal to reason But when you appeal to the reason 
of an audience you are faced with the difficulty that all its 



xvi 


PREFACE 


members ate not on the same level of culture A discussion 
on the shape of the planet cannot be of entrancing interest to 
those who are already acquainted with the glorious fact that 
the earth is round Many writers, when they had produced a 
play of ideas, have been disappointed to find that a large part 
of the audience was bored stiff and that the critics only 
sneered Stale ideas are no more palatable than stale fish 
The fact is that ideas do not grow on every gooseberry 
bush I suppose that no one knows exactly why the dramatist 
can say things in such a way and so present actions that 
they hold an audience I can only surmise that it is a rare 
knack with which he is lucky enough to be bom Ex- 
perience has shown that it cannot be taught He must have 
besides a gift for observation, some literary instinct and a 
considerable knowledge of the world It is a good deal to 
ask that he should be an original thinker as well His mind 
moves naturally in the concrete He grows confused when 
he has to deal with the abstract, and the nature of his 
intelligence forces him to see the instance rather than the 
theory 

But even if a dramatist were by a lucky chance to conceive 
an idea that was both original and momentous what could 
he do with it? He could only illustrate it His play would be 
like those bad movies in the days of the silent film when the 
story was told you in captions and the pictures served only 
to put before your eyes what you already knew That is to 
waste the possibilities of the medium Nor, I suggest, is 
dialogue the best way of presenting ideas I do not suppose 
anyone has used it to better purpose than Plato, but take any 
one of his dialogues and notice how exasperating it is, once 
you are interested in the argument, to be held up by the give 
and take of conversation 

“You will grant, my dear Polemarchus, that a physician 
is useless to persons an sound health ” 

“Certainly 99 

“And a pilot to persons on shore 99 

“Yes ~ 



PREFACE 


XVU 


“Is the just man, also, useless to those who are not at 
war?” 

“I do not quite think that ” 

“Then justice is useful in time of peace too, is it y? 

“It is” 

“And so is agriculture, is it not^” 

“Yes ” 

“That is to say, as a means of acquiring the fruits of the 
earth ” 

“Yes ” 

“And further, the shoemaker’s art is also useful, is it noP” 

“Yes ” 

“As a means of acquiring shoes, I suppose you will say ” 
“Certainly ” 

Does one not wish he would cut the cackle and come to 
the ’osses^ For my part I prefer ideas to be presented to me 
with lucidity and succinctness I do not want to be per- 
suaded to accept the thinker’s thought by his art, I want to 
be convinced by his logic 

The reader must not do me the injustice of supposing that 
I believe there is no room for thought in the theatie The 
more intelligent a dramatist is the better will be his plays I 
suggest merely that ideas, new or old, as such, are no con- 
cern of his He must translate them in terms of emotion 
He must feel them before they can affect his audience And 
what has feeling to do with ideas? The appeal of ideas is to 
the reason and reason is occupied with truth But the 
drama is occupied only with' verisimilitude ' And what, if 
you please, is the dramatist going to do when truth is on one 
side and dramatic effect on the other^ I can tell you If he is 
a dramatist he will let truth go to the devil (should he be of a 
scrupulous nature perhaps consoling himself with some fine 
phrases about the higher truth of art), but if he is a philoso- 
pher he will let his play go hang And that will be the end of 
his play 

Nor is the drama even a good vehicle for propaganda* I 
may think that the administration of the dole is very stupid 



xvih 


PREFACE 


and by choosing characters and instances to prove my case I 
can make out a scandalous state of things But I have 
proved nothing But choosing other characters and other 
instances I can show exactly the opposite And such odd 
things happen in the theatre that a writer can never be sure 
that the moial he inculcates will emerge from the circum- 
stances he displays John Galsworthy wrote Justice to show 
the evils of the prison system and because he was a very able 
dramatist wrote an interesting and moving play, but what he 
actually showed was the efficiency with which society 
eliminates the unfit The didactic writer may load his dice, 
but he can never be certain that he will throw sixes every 
time 

Prose drama is one of the lesser arts, like woodcarving or 
dancing, but so far as it is an art at all its purpose is to afford 
delight I do not think it can usefully concern itself with the 
welfare of humanity or the saving of civilisation I am afraid 
certain critics will say that I am cynical and hold the theatre 
m contempt I am afraid of this because they have said it 
before and critics (like the rest of us) often repeat themselves 
I do not think this is so It may be (and this I do not assert 
but throw out as a suggestion) that I have naturally good 
taste and that my conception of the art I practised is the 
correct one In the eighteenth century, poets were didactic 
and wrote long poems on agriculture, astronomy, bee- 
keeping, forestry and suchlike subjects They were much 
praised for doing so Now we are all agreed that they were 
m error When we want to know about such things we 
consult a text-book We do not want out poets to impart 
information or to inculcate the principles of morality It 
may be that in a little while people will think that the drama 
s; will do best to confine itself to what it can best do ^This in 
my opinion is to give pleasure by telling a story, delineating 
character, and by stirring the emotions or causing laughter ^ 

The Anglo-Saxon race has always looked upon the artist 
with misgiving They have never accepted him as a serious 
person and now that the spread of education has enabled 



writers to move out of Grub Street, this want of con- 
sideration is irksome to them unless they have a sense of 
humour or a happy indifference to the opinion of their 
fellows Writers consequently are apt to claim moral 
intentions and pedagogic ends They seek respectability by 
adopting a portentous attitude I think it is a pity So far as 
the dramatists are concerned too many, who might write 
very good, workmanlike plays, thus waste their talents 
And the English have a cruel sense of humour I think they 
never laugh so much as when they destroy an artist by 
turning him into a prophet 

I have little to say of the three last plays in this volume 
The Circle is generally thought the best play I have written I 
have always thought that the device suggested by Clive 
Champion-Cheney to his son to prevent Elizabeth running 
away not very happy I should have liked at that point a 
more substantial and dramatic invention The Constant 
Wife was a failure m London It was a great success in 
America, m the foreign countries where it has been produced 
and even m the provincial towns in England in which it has 
been from time to time acted Where it has been successful 
it has been much praised by the critics Not of course 
because they were influenced by its success, but because 
a play consists of the words, the production and the 
audience, and the failure of one of the parties concerned may 
make the difference between a good play and a bad one 



OUR BETTERS 


A COMEDY 
m Three Acts 



CHARACTERS 


Lady Grayston 
Duchesse de Surennes 

pRINCIPESSA DELLA CeRCOLA 

Elizabeth Saunders 
Arthur Fenwick 
Thornton Clay 
Fleming Harvey 
Anthony Paxton 
Lord Bleane 
Pole 
Ernest 


The action of the play takes place at Lady Grayston’s house 
in Grosvenor Street , Mayfair, and at her husband's place in 
Suffolk, Abbots Kenton. 




OUR BETTERS 


THE FIRST ACT 

Scene The drawing-room at Lady Grayston’s house in 
Grosvenor Street , Mayfair It is a sumptuous double room , of 
the period of George II , decorated m green and gold, with a 
Coromandel screen and lacquer cabinets, but the coverings of the 
chairs , the sofas and cushions , show the influence of Bakst and 
the Russian Ballet, they offer an agreeable mixture of rich 
plum, emerald green, canary and ultra-marine On the floor is a 
Chinese carpet, and here and there are pieces of Ming pottery 
It is about half -past four, early in the season, and a fine day 
When the curtain rises, from the street below is heard the melancholy 
chant of the lavender man 

Won’t you buy my sweet lavender^ 

Sixteen blue branches for a penny 
If you buy it once. 

You’ll buy it twice. 

For it makes your clothes 
Smell very nice — 

Sweet-scented lavender 

Bessie Saunders comes m She is a very pretty 
American girl, of twenty-two, with fair hair and blue 
eyes She is dressed m the latest mode She wears a hat 
and gloves, and carries a bag She has just come in 
from the street Sher has m her hand a telephone 
message, and going over to the telephone she takes up the 
receiver 

Bessie Gerrard 4321 Is that the Berkeley^ Put me 

5 



6 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT I 


through to Mr Harvey, please Fleming Harvey, that’s 
right [She listens and smiles ] Yes Who d’you think it 
ls^ [She laughs ] I’ve just got your telephone message 
Where have you sprung fromP That’s fine How long 
are you staying in London^ I see I want to see you at 
once Nonsense This very minute Now just jump 
into a taxi and come right away Pearl will be in presently 
Ring off, Fleming No, I will not ring off first [A 
pause ] Are you there^ How tiresome you are You 
might be half-way here by now Well, hustle 

[She puts down the receiver and begins to take off her 
gloves Pole, the butler , comes in with a hunch of 
roses 

Pole These flowers have just come for you, miss 

Bessie Ohl Thank you Aren’t they lovely^ You must 
give me something to put them in, Pole 

Pole I’ll bring a vase, miss 

[He goes out She buries her face in the flowers and 
inhales their fragrance The Butler enters with a 
bowl filled with water 

Bessie Thank you You’re sure they are for me? There’s no 
label 

Pole Yes, miss The person who brought them said they 
was for you, miss I asked if there wasn’t a card, and he 
said no, miss 

Bessie [With a faint smile ] I think I know who they’re 
from [She begins to arrange the flowers ] Her ladyship 
hasn’t come in yet, has she? 

Pole Not yet, miss 

Bessie D’you know if anyone is coming in to tea^ 

Pole Her ladyship didn’t say, miss 

Bessie You’d better prepare for fifteen, then. 

Pole Very good, miss 



ACT 2 


OUR BETTERS 


Bessie I was being funny, Pole 

Pole Yes, miss^ Shall I take the paper away, tmss^ 

Bessie [With a slight sigh of resignation ] Yes, do, will you^ 
[The telephone hell rings ] Oh, I forgot, I switched the 
telephone on here See who it is 

[Pole takes up the receiver and listens , then puts his hand 
over its mouth 

Pole Will you speak to Lord Bleane, miss? 

Bessie Say I*m not at home 

Pole Miss Saunders hasn’t come in yet I beg pardon, my 
lord I didn’t recogmse your lordship’s voice [A pause ] 
Well, my lord, I did hear them say there was a private 
view they thought of going to at the Grosvenor You 
might find Miss Saunders there 
Bessie You needn’t elaborate, Pole 

Pole I was only making it more convincing, miss [Listen- 
ing ] I think so, my lord Of course, I couldn’t say for 
certain, my lord, they might have gone out to Ranelagh 
Bessie Really, Polef 

Pole Very good, my lord [Hi? puts down the receiver ] His 
lordship asked if you was expected in to tea, miss 
Pole Is there anything else, miss^ 

Bessie No, Pole, thank you 

[He goes out She finishes arranging the flowers The door 
is flung open and Lady Grayston comes in, followed 
by Fleming Harvey Pearl — Lady Grayston 
— is a handsome , dashing creature , a woman of 
thirty f our y with red hmr, and a face outrageously 
painted She is dressed in a Tans frocky hut of 
greater daring both m colour and cut than a Trench* 
woman would wear Fleming is a nice-looking 
young American in clothes that were obviously made in 
New York, 



ACT I 


8 OUR BETTERS 

Pearl My dear Bessie, I’ve found an entirely strange 
young man on the doorstep who says he is a cousin 
Bessie [Giving him her hands enthusiastically ] Fleming 
Fleming I introduced myself to Lady Grayston She drove 
up just as they were opening the door Please reassure 
your sister, Bessie She looks upon me with suspicion 

Bessie You must remember Fleming Harvey, Pearl 
Pe^rl I’ve never set eyes on him in my life But he looks 
quite nice 
Bessie He is 

Pearl He's apparently come to see you 
Fleming I rang up five minutes ago and Bessie ordered me 
to come round right away 

Pearl Well, make him stop to tea I've got to telephone 
Fve suddenly remembered that I've asked twelve people 
to dinner 

Bessie Does George know^ 

Pearl Who is George^ 

Bessie Don't be absurd, Pearl George — your husband 
Pearl Otfi I couldn’t make out who you meant No, he 
doesn't know But what’s much more important, the 
cook doesn’t know either I’d forgotten George was in 
London [She goes out 

Bessie George generally dines out when Pearl is giving a 
party, because he doesn't like people he doesn't know, 
and he seldom dines at home when we're alone, because 
it bores him 

Fleming It doesn't sound as if Sir George enjoyed many of 
the benefits of home life 

Bessie Now let's sit down and make ourselves comfortable 
You are going to stay to tea, aren’t you? 

Fleming It's not a beverage that I’m in the habit of im- 
bibing 



ACT I OUR BETTERS 9 

Bessie When you’ve been in England a month you won’t 
be able to do without it When did you land^ 

Fleming This morning You see. I’ve lost no time in 
coming to see you 

Bessie I should think not It is good to see someone 
straight from home 

Fleming Have you been having a good time, Bessie^ 

Bessie Wonderful! Since the beginning of the season, 
except when Pearl has had people here, I’ve been out to 
lunch and dinner every day, and I’ve been to a ball every 
night, generally two and sometimes three 

Fleming Gee! 

Bessie If I stopped now I’d drop down dead 

Fleming D’you like England^ 

Bessie I adore it I think it’s too bad of dad never to have 
let me come over to London before Rome and Pans are 
nothing We’re just trippers there, but here we’re at 
home 

Fleming Don’t get too much at home, Bessie 

Bessie Oh, Fleming, I never thanked you for sending me 
the roses It was perfectly sweet of you 

Fleming [With a smile ] I didn’t send you any roses 

Bessie Didn’t you? Well, why didn’t you^ 

Fleming I hadn’t time But I will 

Bessie It’s too late now I naturally thought they were 
from you, because Englishmen don’t send flowers in the 
same way as American boys do 

Fleming Is that so^ 

[There ts a slight pause Bessie gives him a quick look 

Bessie Fleming, I want to thank you for that charming 
letter you wrote me 

Fleming There’s no occasion to do that, Bessie. 



10 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT I 


Bessie I was afraid you might feel badly about it But we’ll 
always be the greatest friends, won’t we^ 

Fleming Always 

Bessie After all, you were eighteen when you asked me to 
marry you, and I was sixteen It wasn’t a very serious 
engagement I don’t know why we didn’t break it off 
before 

Fleming I suppose it never occurred to us 
Bessie I’d almost forgotten it, but when I came over here 
I thought I’d better make everything quite clear 
Fleming [With a smle ] Bessie, I believe you’re in love 
Bessie No, I’m not I tell you I’m having a wonderful 
time 

Fleming Well, who sent you the roses^ 

Bessie I don’t know LordBleane 

Fleming You’re not going to marry a lord, Bessie^ 

Bessie Have you any objection^ 

Fleming Well, on first principles, I think American girls 
had better marry American men, but then I happen to be 
an American man 

[Bessie looks at him for a moment 
Bessie Pearl gave a dinner party last night I was taken m 
by a cabinet minister, and on the other side of me I had 
an ambassador Just opposite was a man who’d been 
Viceroy in India Madame Angelotti dined with us, and 
she sang afterwards, and a lot of people came on from an 
official dinner in their stars and ribands Pearl looked 
superb She’s a wonderful hostess, you know Several 
people told me they would rather come here than to any 
house in London Before Pearl married George Grayston 
she was engaged to a boy who was in business in Port- 
land, Oregon 

Fleming [. Smiling ] I see you’re quite determined to marry 
a lord 



ACT I 


OUR BETTERS 


II 


Bessie No, I’m not Fm keeping an open mind on the 
subject 

Fleming What d’you mean by that? 

Bessie Well, Fleming, it hasn’t escaped my notice that a 
certain noble lord is not unwilling to lay his beautiful 
coronet at my feet 

Fleming Don’t talk like a novelette, Bessie 

Bessie But it feels just like a novelette The poor dear is 
trying to propose to me every time he sees me, and I’m 
doing all I can to prevent him 

Fleming Why? 

Bessie I don’t want to refuse him, and then wish I hadn’t 

Fleming You could easily make him ask you again 
Women find that so simple 

Bessie Ah, but supposing he went right away to shoot big 
game in Africa It’s what they do, you know, in 
novelettes 

Fleming I’m reassured about one thing You’re not in the 
least m love with him 

Bessie I told you I wasn’t You don’t mind my saying all 
this to you, Fleming? 

Fleming Gracious, no, why should I? 

Bessie You’re sure you don’t feel sore at my throwing you 
over? 

Fleming [Cheerfully ] Not a bit 

Bessie I am glad, because then I can tell you all about the 
noble lord 

Fleming Has it occurred to you that he wants to marry you 
for your money? 

Bessie You can put it more prettily You can say that he 
wants to marry me with my money 

Fleming And is that a prospect that allures you? 



12 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT I 


Bessie Poor dear, what else can he do? He’s got a large 
place to keep up, and he simply hasn’t a cent 
Fleming Really, Bessie, you amaze me 
Bessie I shan’t when you’ve been here a month 

[Pearl comes m 

Pearl Now, Bessie, tell me all about this strange young 
man 

Bessie He’s quite capable of telling you about himself 
Pearl [To Fleming ] How long are you staying^ 

Fi eming A couple of months I want to see somethmg of 
English life 

Pearl I see D’you want to improve your mind or d’you 
want to go into society^ 

Fleming I suppose I couldn’t combine the two* 

Pearl Are you rich* 

Fleming Not at all 

Pearl It doesn’t matter, you’re good-looking If one 
wants to be a success in London one must either have 
looks, wit, or a bank-balance You know Arthur 
Fenwick, don’t you* 

Fleming Only by reputation 
Pearl How superciliously you say that! 

Fleming He provides bad food to the working classes of 
the United States at an exorbitant price I have no doubt 
he makes a lot of money 
Bessie He’s a great friend of Pearl’s 
Pearl When he first came over because they turned up 
their noses at him in New York, I said to him My dear 
Mr Fenwick, you’re not good-looking, you’re not 
amusing, you’re not well-bred, you’re only rich If you 
want to get into society you must spend money ^ 
Fleming It was evidently in the nature of a straight talk 
Bessie We must do what we can for Fleming, Pearl 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT I 


*3 


Pearl [With a chuckle ] We’ll introduce him to Minnie 
Surennes 

Fleming Who in the world is she^ 

Pearl The Duchesse de Surennes Don’t you remember^ 
She was a Miss Hodgson Chicago people Of course, 
they’re nobody in America, but that doesn’t matter over 
here She adores good-looking boys, and I daresay she’s 
getting rather tired of Tony [To Bessie ] By the way, 
they’re coming in this afternoon 

Bessie I don’t like Tony 

Pearl Why not^ I think he’s charming He’s the most 
unprincipled ruffian I ever met 

Fleming Is Tony the duke P 

Pearl What duke? Her husband^ Oh no, she divorced 
him years ago 

Bessie I think Fleming would like the Princess much 
better 

Pearl Oh, well, he’ll meet her here to-day, too* 

Bessie She was a Miss van Hoog, Fleming, 

Fleming Is she divorced too^ 

Pearl Oh no, her husband’s an Italian. It’s very difficult 
to get a divorce in Italy She’s only separated She’s 
quite nice She’s one of my greatest friends She bores 
me a little 

[Pole comes m to announce Thornton Clay and then 
goes out Thornton Clay is a stout American with 
a bald head and an effusive manner He is somewhat 
overdressed He speaks with a marked American 
accent 

Pole Mr ThorntonClay 

Clay Howd’youdo 5 

Pearl You’re the very person we want, Thornton An 
entirely strange young man has suddenly appeared on my 
doorstep, and says he’s my cousin 


B 



14 OUR BETTERS ACT I 

Clay My dear Pearl, that is a calamity which we Americans 
must always be prepared for 

Bessie I won’t have you say such things, Mr Clay Fleming 
is not only our cousin, but he’s my very oldest friend 
Aren’t you, Fleming? 

Pearl Bessie has a charming nature She really thinks that 
friendship puts one under an obligation 

Fleming Since you’re talking of me, won’t you introduce 
me to Mr Clay? 

Pearl How American you are! 

F lemin g [, Smiling ] It’s not unnatural, is it? 

Pearl Over here we haven’t the passion that you have in 
America for introducing people My dear Thornton, 
allow me to present to you my long-lost cousin, Mr 
Fleming Harvey 

Clay It’s so long since I was m America that I almost 
forget, but I believe the proper answer to that is 
Mr Fleming Harvey, I’m pleased to make your 
acquaintance 

Fleming Aren’t you an American, Mr Clay? 

Clay I won’t deny that I was bom in Virginia 

Fleming I beg your pardon, I thought from the way you 
spoke 

Clay [J Interrupting ] But, of course, my home is London 

Pearl Nonsense, Thornton, your hcune is wherever there’s 
a first-class hotel 

Clay I went to America seven years ago My father died 
and I had to go and settle up his affairs Everyone took 
me for an Englishman 

Fleming That must have gratified you very much, Mr Clay 

Clay Of course, I haven’t a trace of an American accent 
I suppose that was the reason And then my clothes 

[Hi? looks dawn at them With satisfaction , 



ACT I OUR BETTERS 1 5 

Pearl Fleming wants to see life in London, Thornton He 
can’t do better than put himself under your wing 

Clay I know everyone who’s worth knowing I can’t deny 
that 

Pearl Thornton calls more countesses by their Christian 
names than any man in town 

Clay I’ll get him cards for some good balls, and I’ll see that 
he’s asked to one or two of the right parties 

Pearl He’s good-looking, and I’m sure he dances well 
He’ll be a credit to you, Thornton 

Clay [To Fleming ] But, of course, there’s really nothing I 
can do for you At Lady Grayston’s you are m the very 
hub of society I don’t mean the stuffy, old-fashioned 
society, that goes about in barouches and bores itself stiff, 
but the society that counts, the society that figures in the 
newspapers Pearl is the most wonderful hostess in 
London 

Pearl What do you want, Thornton^ 

Clay In this house, sooner or later, you’ll meet every 
remarkable man in England except one That is George 
Grayston. And he’s only remarkable because he’s her 
husband 

Pearl [With a chuckle ] I might have known you were only 
saying a pleasant thing in order to make the next one 
more disagreeable 

Clay Of course, I can’t make out why you never ask 
George to your parties Personally I like him 

Pearl That’s all the nicer of you, Thornton, since he 
always speaks of you as that damned snob 

Clay [With a shrug of the shoulders ] Poor George, he has 
such a limited vocabulary I met Flora della Cercola at 
luncheon to-day She told me she was coming to tea with 
you. 



ACT I 


i6 OUR BETTERS 

Pearl She’s getting up a concert in aid of something or 
other, and she wants me to help her 

Clay Poor Flora, with her good works! She takes 
philanthropy as a drug to allay the pangs of unrequited 
love 

Pearl I always tell her she’d do much better to take a lover 

Clay You’ll shock Mr Harvey 

Pearl It won’t hurt him It’ll do him good 

Clay Did you ever know her husband^ 

Pearl Oh yes, I met him Just the ordinary little Dago I 
cannot imagine why she should ever have been in love 
with him She’s an extraordinary creature D’youknow, 
I’m convinced that she’s never had an affair 

Clay Some of these American women are strangely 
sexless 

Fleming I have an idea that some of them are even 
virtuous 

Pearl [With a smile ] It takes all sorts to make a world 

[Pole enters to announce the Duchesse de Surennes, 
and then goes out 

Pole The Duchesse de Surennes 

[The Duchesse is a large > dark woman of forty-five 
with scarlet lips and painted cheeks , a woman of 
opulent form , bold, self-assured and outrageously 
sensual She suggests a drawing of a Roman Emperor 
by Aubrey Beardsley She is gowned with a certain 
dashing magnificence , and wears a long string of large 
pearls round her neck During the conversation Pole 
and two footmen bring m tea, and place it m the back 
drawing-room* 

Pearl* My dear, how nice of you to come. 

Duchesse Isn’t Tony here? 

Pearl No 



ACT I 


OUR BETTERS 


*7 


Duchesse He said he was coming straight here 
Pearl I daresay he’s been delayed 

Duchesse I can’t understand it He telephoned a quarter of 
an hour ago that he was starting at once 

Pearl [Reassuringly ] He’ll be here presently 

Duchesse [With an effort over herself] How pretty you’re 
looking, Bessie No wonder all the men I meet rave 
about you 

Bessie Englishmen are so shy Why don’t they rave to me? 
Duchesse They’ll never let you go back to America 

Pearl Of course, she’s never going back I’m determined 
that she shall marry an Englishman 
Clay She’ll make a charming addition to our American 
peeresses 

Pearl And there’ll be another that you can call by her 
Christian name, Thornton 

Bessie I wish you wouldn’t talk as if I hadn’t a word to say 
in the matter 

Clay Of course, you’ve got a word to say, Bessie — a very 
important one 
Bessie Yes, I suppose? 

Clay Exactly 

Pearl Pour out the tea, darling, will you? 

Bessie Surely [To Clay ] I know you don’t share Flem- 
ing’s contempt for tea, Mr Clay 
Clay I couldn’t live a day without it. Why* I never travel 
without a tea basket 
Fleming [Ironically ] Is that so? 

Clay You Americans who live in America . • 

Fleming [Under hts breath ] So queer of us 
Clay Despise the delectable habit of dunking tea because 
you are still partly barbarous The hour that we spend 



IS OUR BETTERS ACT I 

over it is the most delightful of the day We do not make 
a business of eating as at luncheon or dinner We are at 
ease with ourselves ^ We toy with pretty cakes as an 
excuse for conversation We discuss the abstract, our 
souls, our morals, we play delicately with the concrete, 
our neighbour’s new bonnet or her latest lover We 
drink tea because we are a highly civilised nation 

Fleming I must be very stupid, but I don’t follow 

Clay My dear fellow, the degree of a nation’s civilisation is 
marked by its disregard for the necessities of existence 
You have gone so far as to waste money, but we have 
gone farther, we waste what is infinitely more precious, 
more transitory, more irreparable — we waste time 

Duchesse My dear Thornton, you fill me with despair 
Compton Edwardes has cut me off my tea I thought he 
was only depriving me of a luxury, now I see he’s 
depriving me also of a religious rite 

Fleming Who in heaven’s name is Compton Edwardes, 
that he should have such influence^ 

Pearl My dear Fleming, he’s the most powerful man in 
London He’s the great reducer 

Fleming Gracious! What does he reduce? 

Pearl Fat 

Duchesse He’s a perfect marvel, that man Do you know, 
the Duchess of Arlington told me he’d taken nine 
pounds off her 

Pearl My dear, that’s nothing Why, Clara Hollington 
gave me her word of honour she’d lost over a stone 

Bessie [From the tea-table ] Anyone who wants tea must 
come and fetch it 

[The men saunter over to the next room , while Pearl and 
the Duchesse go on with their conversation 

Duchesse Who is that nice-looking young man. Pearl? 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT I 


*9 


Pearl Oh, he’s a young American He pretends to be a 
cousin of mine He’s come to see Bessie 

Duchesse Does he want to marry her? 

Pearl Good heavens, I hope not He’s only an old friend 
You know the funny ways they have in America 

Duchesse I suppose nothing is really settled about Harry 
Bleane? 

Pearl No But I shouldn’t be surprised if you saw an 
announcement in the Morning Post one day 

Duchesse Has she enough money for him? 

Pearl She has a million 

Duchesse Not pounds? 

Pearl Oh no, dollars 

Duchesse That’s only eight thousand a year I shouldn’t 
have thought he’d be satisfied with that 

Pearl People can’t expect so much nowadays There 
won’t be any more enormous heiresses as there were in 
your time Besides, Harry Bleane isn’t such a catch as all 
that Of course, it’s better to be an English baron than an 
Italian count, but that’s about all you can say for it. 

Duchesse Of course she’ll accept him? 

Pearl Oh yes, she’s crazy to live m England And as I tell 
her, it’s quite pleasant to be a peeress even now. 

Duchesse What on earth can have happened to Tony? 

Pea.rl Mv dear, he’s not likely to have been run over by a 
motor-bus 

Duchesse I’m not afraid of motor-buses running over him, 
I’m afraid of him running after Gaiety girls 

Pearl \Dnly ] I should have thought you kept a very sharp 
eye on him 

Duchesse You see, he hasn’t got anything to do from 
morning till night. 

Pearx Why doesn’t he get a job? 



20 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT I 


Duchesse Fve been trying to get him something, but it’s so 
difficult You’ve got such a lot of influence. Pearl 
Can’t you do something^ I should be so grateful 

Pearl What can he do^ 

Duchesse Anything And as you know he’s very good- 
looking 

Pearl Does he know French and German^ 

Duchesse No, he has no gift for languages 
Pearl Can he type, and write shorthand^ 

Duchesse Oh, no Poor dear, you can hardly expect that 
Pearl Can he do accounts^ 

Duchesse No, he has no head for figures 

Pearl {Reflectively ] Well, the only thing I can see that he’d 
do for is a government office 

Duchesse Oh, my dear, if you only could manage that 
You can’t think what a comfort it would be for me to 
know that he couldn’t get into mischief at least from ten 
to four every day 

[Pole announces Tony Paxton Tony is a handsome 
youth of twenty-five , m beautiful clothes , with engaging 
manners and a charming smile 
Pole Mr Paxton 
Pearl Well, Tony, how is life^ 

Tony Rotten I haven’t backed a winner or won a rubber 
this week 

Pearl Ah well, that’s the advantage of not having money, 
you can afford to lose it 

Duchesse [Bursting m ] Where have you been, Tony? 
Tony I? Nowhere 

Duchesse You said you were coming straight here It 
doesn’t take twenty-five minutes to get here from Dover 
Street* 



ACT I 


OUR BETTERS 


21 


Tony I thought there wasn’t any hurry I was just hanging 
about the club 

Duchesse I rang up the club again, and tney said you’d 
gone 

Tony [After a very slight pause ] I was downstairs having a 
shave, and I suppose they never thought of looking for 
me m the barber’s shop 

Duchesse What on earth did you want to be shaved for at 
half-past four in the afternoon? 

Tony I thought you’d like me to look nice and clean 

Pearl Go and get Bessie to give you some tea, Tony, I’m 
sure you want it after the strenuous day y ou’ve had 

[He nods and walks into the inner room 

Pearl Minnie, how can you be so silly? You can’t expect 
to keep a man if you treat him like that 

Duchesse I know he’s lying to me, there’s not a word of 
truth in anything he says but he’s so slim I can never 
catch him out Oh, I’m so jealous 

Pearl Are you really in love with him? 

Duchesse He’s everything m the world to me 

Pearl You shouldn’t let yourself be carried away like this 

Duchesse I’m not cold-blooded like you 

Pearl You seem to have a passion for rotters, and they 
always treat you badly 

Duchesse Oh, I don’t care about the others Tony is the 
only one I’ve ever really loved 

Pearl Nonsensel You were just as much in love with Jack 
Harris You did everything in the world for him You 
taught him to wear his clothes You got him into 
society And the moment he could do without you he 
chucked you Tony will do just the same. 

Duchesse, I’m not going to be such a fool this time Tm 
going to take care he can’t do without me 



22 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT 1 


Pearl I can’t imagine what you see in him You must 
know that 

Duchesse {Interrupting ] There’s very little I don’t know 
He’s a liar, a gambler, an idler, a spendthrift, but m his 
way he is fond of me [Appealingly ] You can see he’s 
fond of me, can’t you? 

Pearl He’s so much younger than you, Minnie 

Duchesse I can’t help it I love him 

Pearl Oh, well, I suppose it’s no good talking As long as 
he makes you happy 

Duchesse He doesn’t He makes me miserable But I love 
him He wants me to marry him. Pearl 

Pearl You’re not going to? 

Duchesse No, I won’t be such a fool as that If I married 
him Pd have no hold over him at all 

[Enter Pole to announce the Princess della Cercola 
She is a tall , thin woman of thirty-five, with a pale , 
haggard face and great dark eyes She is a gentle, kind 
creature , hut there is something pathetic , almost tragic, 
m her appearance She is dressed, though very well, and 
obviously by a Pans dressmaker, more quietly than the 
Duchesse or Pearl She has not only wealth, but 
distinction 

Pole Princess della Cercola 

[Exit Pearl gets up to receive her They kiss 

Pearl Darlingl 

Princess D’you hate me for coming to bother you? I ran 
up because I know how difficult you ate to catch 
[Kissing the Duchesse ] How are you, Minnie? 

Duchesse Don’t ask me for a subscription. Flora I’m so 
poor 

Princess [Smiling] Wait till I tell you what it’s for, and 
then you’ll remember that you had a father called 
Spencer Hodgson 



ACT I OUR BETTERS 23 

Duchesse [With a little groan] As if I 'wanted to be 
reminded of it! 

Pearl You’re so absurd, Minnie You should make a joke 
of the pork I always tell people about father’s hardware 
store, and when I haven’t got a funny story to tell about 
it, I invent one 

Princess You’ve made your father quite a character in 
London 

Pearl That’s why I never let him come over He couldn’t 
possibly live up to his reputation 

[Fleming Harvey comes forward from the inner room 
Fleming I’m going to say good-bye to you 

Pearl You mustn’t go before I’ve introduced you to Flora 
Flora, this is Mr Fleming Harvey He’s just come from 
America He probably carries a six-shooter in his hip- 
pocket 

Fleming I’m told I mayn’t say I’m pleased to make your 
acquaintance, Prmcess 
Princess When did you land^ 

Fleming This morning 
Princess I envy you 

Fleming Because I landed this morning^ 

Princess No, because a week ago you were in America 
Duchesse Flora! 

Fleming I was beginning to think it was something to be 
rather ashamed of 

Princess Oh, you mustn’t pay any attention to Pearl and 
the Duchesse They’re so much more English than the 
English 

Pearl I notice you show your devotion to the country of 
your birth by staying away from it. Flora 
Princess Last time I was in America it made me so unhappy 
that I vowed I’d never go there again 



ACT I 


24 OUR BETTERS 

Duchesse I was there ten years ago, when I was divorcing 
Gaston I hadn’t been in America since my marriage, 
and I’d forgotten what it was like Oh, it was so crude 
Oh, it was so provincial You don’t mind my saying so, 
Mr Harvey^ 

Fleming Not at all You’re just as American as I am, and 
there’s no reason why among ourselves we shouldn’t 
abuse the mother that bore us 

Duchesse Oh, but I don’t look upon myself as American 
I’m French After all, I haven’t a trace of an American 
accent To show you how it got on my nerves, I almost 
didn’t divorce Gaston because I thought I couldn’t bring 
myself to stay in America long enough 

Princess It’s not because it was crude and provincial that I 
was unhappy in America I was unhappy because after 
all it was home, the only real home I’ve ever had, and I 
was a stranger 

Pearl My dear Flora, you’re being very sentimental 

Princess \Smihng ] I’m sorry, I apologise You’re a New 
Yorker, Mr Harvey? 

Fleming I’m proud of it, madam 

Princess New York’s wonderful, isn’t it ? It has something 
that no other city in the world has got I like to think of 
Fifth Avenue on a spring day The pretty girls in their 
smart frocks and neat shoes, who trip along so gaily, and 
all the good-looking boys 

Duchesse I grant you that, some of the boys are too lovely 
for words 

Princess Everyone is so strong and confident There’s 
such an exaltation in the air You feel in the passers-by a 
serene and unshakable belief in the future Oh, it’s very 
good to be alive in Fifth Avenue on a sunny day in April 

Fleming It’s good for an American to hear another 
American say such pleasant things about his country 



ACT I OUR BETTERS 25 

Princess You must come and see me, and you shall tell me 
all the news of home 

Pearl How high the newest building is, and how much 
money the latest millionaire has got 
Fleming Good-bye 

Pearl Have you made friends with Thornton Clay^ 
Fleming I hope so 

Pearl You must get him to give you the address of his 
tailor 

Fleming Aren’t you pleased with my clothes^ 

Pearl They’re very American, you know, 

Fleming So am I 

[Thornton Clay comes forward The Duchesse strolls 
over to the inner room and is seen talking with Bessie 
and Tony Paxton 

Pearl Thornton, I was just telling Mr Harvey that you’d 
take him to your tailor 
Clay I was going to suggest it 
Fleming My clothes are not at all a success 
Pearl Who d’you go to^ Stultz^ 

Clay Of course He’s the only tailor in London [To 
Fleming] Of course he’s a German, but art has no 
nationality 

Fleming I’m pleased at all events to think that it’s a 
German tailor who’s going to make me look like an 
Englishman 

[He goes out Thornton makes hs farewells 
Clay Good-bye, Pearl 

Pearl Are you goings Don’t forget you’re coming down 
to Kenton on Saturday 

Clay I won’t, indeed I adore your week-end parties. Pearl 
I’m so exhausted by Monday morning that I’m fit for 
nothing for the rest of the week Good-bye 



zS 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT I 


[ne shakes hands and goes out As fa is going , Pole 
opens the door to announce Lord Bleane He ts a 
young man, very ’English tn appearance 9 pleasant , clean 
and well-groomed 

Pole Lord Bleane [Exit 

Pearl Dear Harry, how nice of you to come 
Bleane Fm m absolute despair 
Pearl Good heavens, why? 

Bleane They’re sending a mission to Rumania to hand the 
Garter to some bigwig and I’ve got to go with it 

Pearl Oh, but that’ll be very interesting 

Bleane Yes, but we start to-morrow, and I shan’t be able 
to come down to Kenton on Saturday. 

Pearl When do you come back? 

Bleane In four weeks 

Pearl Then come down to Kenton the Saturday after that 
Bleane MayP 

Pearl You must go and break the news to Bessie She was 
so looking forward to your visit 
Bleane D’you think she’ll give me some tea? 

Pearl I have no doubt, if you ask her nicely. 

[He goes over to the inner room 
Princess Now I’ve got you to myself for two minutes 
You will help me with my concert, won’t you? 

Pearl Of course What do you want me to do? I’ll make 
Arthur Fenwick take any number of tickets. You know 
how charitable he is 
Princess It’s for a very good cause 
Pearl I’m sure it is But don’t harrow me with revolting 
stories of starving children I’m not interested m the 
poor 

Princess [Smiling ] How can you say that? 



ACT I OUR BETTERS 27 

Pearl Are yoiP I often wonder if your philanthropy isn't 
an elaborate pose You don't mind my saying that, do 
you^ 

Princess [Good-humouredly] Not at all You have no heart, 
and you can’t imagine that anyone else should have 

Pearl I have plenty of heart, but it beats for people of my 
own class 

Princess I’ve only found one thing really worth doing with 
all this money I have, and that is to help a little those who 
need help 

Pearl [With a shrug ] So long as it makes you happy 

Princess It doesn't, but it prevents me from being utterly 
miserable 

Pearl You make me so impatient. Flora You've got more 
money than you know what to do with You're a 
princess You’ve practically got rid of your husband I 
cannot imagine what more you want I wish I could get 
rid of mine 

Princess [Smiling ] I don't know what you’ve got to 
complain of in George 

Pearl That's justit I shouldn’t mind if he beat me or made 
love to chorus girls I could divorce him then Oh, my 
dear, thank your stars that you had a husband who was 
grossly unfaithful to you Mine wants me to live nine 
months of the year in the country and have a baby every 
five minutes I didn’t marry an Englishman for that 

Princess "Why did you marry him? 

Pearl I made a mistake I'd lived all my life in New York 
I was very ignorant I thought if you were a baronet you 
must be in society 

Princess J often wonder if you're happy. Pearl 

Pearl Do you^ Of course I’m happy 

Princess An ambassador told me the other day that you 
were the most powerful woman in London It's very 



28 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT I 


wonderful how you’ve made your way You had 
nothing very much to help you 

Pearl Shall I tell you how it was done* By force of 
character, wit, unscrupulousness and push 

Princess [Smiling ] You’re very frank. 

Pearl That has always been my pose 

Princess I sometimes think there’s positive genius in the 
way you’ve ignored the snubs of the great 

Pearl [With a chuckle ] You’re being very unpleasant. 
Flora 

Princess And there’s something very like heroism in the 
callousness with which you’ve dropped people when 
they’ve served your turn 

Pearl You’re driving me to the conclusion that you don’t 
altogether approve of me 

Princess On the other hand I can’t help admiring you 
You’ve brought all the determination, insight, vigour, 
strength, which have made our countrymen turn 
America into what it 3$. to get what you wanted In a 
way your life has been a work of art And what makes it 
more complete is that what you’ve aimed at is trivial, 
transitory and worthless 

Pearl My dear Flora, people don’t hunt in order to catch a 
fox 

Princess Sometimes, doesn’t it make you rather nervous, 
when you’re sitting on the top of your ladder, in case 
anyone should give it a kick as he passes* 

Pearl It’ll want more than a kick to topple my ladder over 
D’you remember when that silly woman made such a 
fuss because her husband was in love with me* It wasn’t 
till I only just escaped the divorce court that the duchesses 
really took me up, 

[The Duchesse comes forward with Tont Paxton* 



ACT I 


OUR BETTERS 


2 9 

Duchesse We really must be going, Pearl I expect my 
masseur at six Compton Edwardes told me about him 
He’s ’wonderful, but he’s so run after, if you keep him 
waiting a moment be goes away 

Pearl My dear, do be careful Fanny Hallam got herself 
down to a mere nothing, but it made her look a hundred 

Duchesse Oh, I know, but Compton Edwardes has 
recommended to me a wonderful woman who comes 
every morning to do my face 

Pearl- You are coming to my ball, aren’t you^ 

Duchesse Of course we’re coming Yours are almost the 
only parties in London where one amuses oneself as 
much as at a night club 

Pearl I’m having Ernest to come in and dance 

Duchesse I thought of having him one evening How 
much does he charge for coming in socially^ 

Pearl Twenty guineas 

Duchesse Good heavens, I could never afford that 

Pearl What nonsense! You’re far richer than I am 

Duchesse I’m not so clever, darling I can’t think how you 
do so much on your income 

Pearl [Amused] Pm a very good manager 

Duchesse One would never think it Good-bye, dear Are 
you coming, Tony^ 

Tony Yes [She goes out 

Tony [Shaking hands with Pearl ] I’ve not had a word with 
you to-day 

Pearl [Chaffing him ] What are we to do about it? 

Princess I must get Minnie to go to my concert Minnie 

[She goes out Tony is left face to face with Pearl 

Tony You’re looking perfectly divine to-day I don’t 
know what there is about you. 



ACT I 


30 0 XT R B El TERS 

Pearl [. Amused \ but not disconcerted ] It is nice of you to say 
so 

Tony I simply haven’t been able to take my eyes off you 
Pearl Are you making love to me^ 

Tony That’s nothing new, is 
Pearl You’ll get into trouble 
Tony Don’t be disagreeable. Pearl 

Pearl I don’t remember that I ever told you you might call 
me Pearl 

Tony It’s how I think of you You can’t prevent me from 
doing that 

Pearl Well, I think it’s very familiar 

Tony I don’t know what you’ve done to me I think of 
you all day long 

Pearl I don’t believe it for a minute You’re an un- 
principled ruffian, Tony 
Tony Do you mind 5 

Pearl [With a chuckle ] Shameless creature I wonder what 
it is that Minnie sees in you 
Tony I have all sorts of merits 
Pearl I’m glad you think so I can only discover one 
Tony What is that? 

Pearl You’re somebody else’s property 
Tony Oh! 

Pearl [Holding out her hand ] Good-bye 

[He kisses her wrist His lips linger She looks at him 
from under her eyelashes 

Pearl It doesn’t make you irresistible, you know 

Tony There’s always the future 

Pearl The future’s everybody’s property. 

Tony [In an undertone.} Pearl 



ACT I 


OUR BETTERS 


31 


Pearl Be quick and go Minnie will be wondering why 
you don't come 

[He goes out Pearl turns away with a smile Bessie and 
Lord Bleajne advance into the room 

Pearl Has Harry broken the news to you that he can't 
come down to us on Saturday^ 

[The Princess comes m 

Princess I've got my subscription 

Pearl I kept Tony up here as long as I could so as to give 
you a chance 

Princess [With a laugh ] That was really tactful 

Pearl Poor Minnie, she's as mean as cat's meat [With a 
glance at Bessie and Lord Bleane ] If you'd like to come 
down to the morning-room we can go through my 
visitors' book and see who’ll be useful to you 

Princess Oh, that would be kind of you 

Pearl [To Bleane ] Don’t go till I come back, will you^ 
I haven't had a word with you yet 

Bleane All right 

[Pearl and the Princess go out 

Bessie I wonder if you sent me these flowers. Lord Bleane^ 

Bleane I did I thought you wouldn't mind 

Bessie It was very kind of you 

[She takes Wo oj the roses and puts them in her dress 
Bleane is overcome with shyness He does not know 
howto begin 

Bleane D'you mind if I light a cigarette^ 

Bessie Not at all 

Bleane [As he lights it] D'you know, this is the first time 
I've ever been alone with you It was very tactful of 
Lady Grayston to leave us 

Bessie I’m not sure if It wasn't a trifle too tactful. 



32 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT I 


Bleane I was hoping most awfully to have the chance of 
getting a talk with you 

[The song of the lavender ts heard again m the street 
Bessie welcomes the diversion 

Bessie Oh, listen, there’s the lavender mac co me back again 
[She goes to the window and listens ] Throw bam down a 
shilling, will you ? 

Bleane All right [He takes a com from his pocket and throws 
it into the street 

Bessie I seem to feel all the charm of England m that funny 
little tune It suggests cottage gardens, and hedges, and 
winding roads 

Bleane My mother grows lavender at home. When we 
were kids we were made to pick it, and my mother used 
to put it in little muslin bags and tie them up with pink 
ribbon And she used to put them under the pillows of 
one’s bed and in all the drawers Shall I ask her to send 
you some^ 

Bessie Oh, that would be such a bother for her 

Bleane It wouldn’t She’d like to And you know, it’s not 
like the lavender you buy It knocks spots off anything 
you can get in shops 

Bessie You must hate leaving London at this time of year 

Bleane Oh, I’m not very keen on London [Making a dash 
font] I hate leaving you 

Bessie [With comic desperation ] Let’s not talk about me. 
Lord Bleane 

Bleane But that’s the only topic that occurs to me. 

Bessie There’s always the weather in England* 

Bleane You see, I’m off to-morrow 

Bessie. I never saw anyone so obstinate 

Bleane I shan’t see you again for nearly a month We 
haven’t known one another very long, and if I hadn’t 



ACT I OUR BETTERS 3* 

been going away I expect Fd ha^e thought it better to 
wait a bit 

Bessie [< Clasping her hands ] Lord Bleane, don’t propose to 
me 

Bleane Why not? 

Bessie Because I shall refuse you 

Bleane Ohl 

Bessie Tell me about the part of the country you live in I 
don’t know Kent at all Is it pretty^ 

Bleane I don’t know It’s home 

Bessie I love those old Elizabethan houses that you have in 
England with all their chimneys 

Bleane Oh, ours isn’t a show place, you know It’s just 
a rather ugly yellow brick house that looks like a box, 
and it’s got a great big stucco portico in front of it I 
think the garden’s rather jolly 

Bessie Pearl hates Abbots Kenton She’d sell it if George 
would She’s only really happy in London 

Bleane I don’t know that I was so particularly struck on 
Bleane till I was over in France When I was m hospital 
at Boulogne there didn’t seem much to do but to think 
about things It didn’t seem as if I could get well 
I knew I should if they’d only let me come home, but 
they wouldn’t, they said I couldn’t be moved It’s 
rather bleak in our part of the country We’ve got an 
east wind that people find a bit trying, but if you’ve 
been used to it all your life it bucks you up wonderful 
In summer it can be awfully hot down there, but there’s 
always something fresh and salt in the air You see, 
we’re so near the marshes It was only just across 
the water, and it seemed such an awful long way off 
I ain’t boring you, am P 

Bessie No I want you to tell me 



ACT I 


34 OUR BETTERS 

Bleane It’s a funny sort of country There are a lot of 
green fields and elm trees, and the roads wind about — 
it’s rotten for motoring, and then you have the marshes, 
with dykes in them — we used to jump them when we 
were boys, and fall in mostly, and then there’s the sea 
It doesn’t sound much, but I felt it was the most ripping 
thing I knew And then there are hop-fields — I forgot 
them — and the oast-houses They’re rather picturesque, 
I suppose I expect it’s like the lavender to you To me 
it’s just England 

[Bessie gets up and walks towards the window In the 
distance is heard the melancholy cry of the lavender man 

Bleane What are you thinking about^ 

Bessie It must be Very wonderful to feel like that about 
one’s home I’ve never known anything but a red stone 
house in Nineteenth Street As soon as dad can get a 
decent offer for it we’re going to move further up town 
Mother has a fancy for Seventy-Second Street, I don’t 
know why 

Bleane Of course, I know it couldn’t mean the same to a 
girl that it means to me I shouldn’t expect anyone to 
live there always I can be quite happy in London 

Bessie [With a smile ] You’re determined to do it? 

Bleane If you could bring yourself to marry me, I’d try 
and give you a good time 

Bessie Well, I suppose that’s a proposal 

Bleane I’ve never made one before, and it makes me a bit 
nervous 

Bessie You haven’t said anything that I can answer yes 
or no to 

Bleane I don’t want to say anything that you can answer 
no to 

Bessie [With a chuckle ] Let me say that I’ll think it over, 
may I? 



ACT I 


OUR BETTERS 


1 ) 


Bleane I’m going away to-morrow 
Bessie I’ll give you an answer when you come back 
Bleane But that won’t be for four weeks 
Bessie It’ll give us both a chance to make up our min ds 
After all, it is rather a serious step You may come to 
the conclusion that you don’t really want to marry me 
Bleane There’s no fear of that 

Bessie You’re coming down to Kenton for the week-end 
after you get back If you change your mmd send Pearl 
a wire putting yourself off I shall understand, and I 
shan’t be in the least hurt or offended 
Bleane Then it’s good-bye till then 

Bessie Yes And thank you very much for wishing 
to marry me 

Bleane Thank you very much for not refusing me outright 
[They shake hands and he goes out She walks over to 
the window to look at him , glances at the watch on 
her wrist , and then leaves the room In a moment 
Pole shows in Arthur Fenwick He is a talk 
elderly man with a red face and grey hair \ 

Pole I’ll tell her ladyship you’re here, sir 
Fenwick That’ll be very good of you 

Pole goes out Fenwick takes a cigar from his case , 
and the evening paper from a table , and settles himself 
down comfortably to read and smoke He makes him- 
self very much at home Pearl comes m 

Pearl Aren’t Bessie and Harry Bleane here^ 

Fenwick No 

Pearl That’s very strange I wonder what can have 
happened 

Fenwick Never mind about Bessie and Harry Bleane 
me your attention now 
Pearl You’re very late 


Give 



ACT I 


3 6 OUR BETTERS 

Fenwick I like to come when I stand a chance of finding 
you alone, girlie 

Pearl I wish you wouldn’t call me girlie, Arthur I do 
hate it 

Fenwick That’s how I think of you When I’m present at 
one of your big set-outs, and watch you like a queen 
among all those lords and ambassadors and bigwigs, 
I just say to myself. She’s my girlie, and I feel warm 
all over I’m so proud of you then You’ve got there, 
girlie, you’ve got there 

Pearl [Smzhng ] You’ve been very kind to me, Arthur 

Fenwick You’ve got brains, girlie, that’s how you’ve done 
it It’s brains Underneath your flighty ways and that 
casual air of yours, so that one might think you were 
just enjoying yourself and nothing more, I see you 
thinking it all out, pulling a string here and a string 
there, you’ve got them in the hollow of your hand all 
the time You leave nothing to chance, Pearl, you’re 
a great woman 

Pearl Not great enough to make you obey your doctor’s 
orders 

Fenwick [Taking the agar out of his mouth ] You’re not 
going to ask me to throw away the first cigar I’ve had 
to-day^ 

Pearl To please me, Arthur They’re so bad for you 

Fenwick If you put it like that I must give in 

Pearl I don’t want you to be ill 

Fenwick You’ve got a great heart, girlie The world just 
thinks you’re a smart, fashionable woman, clever, 
brilliant, beautiful, a leader of fashion, but I know 
different * I know you’ve got a heart of gold 

Pearl You’re a romantic old thing, Arthur 

Fenwick My love for you is the most precious thing I have 
in the world You’re my guiding star, you’re my ideal 



ACT I 


OUR BETTERS 


57 


You stand to me for all that’s pure and noble and clean 
in womanhood God bless you, girlie I don’t know 
what I should do if you failed me I don’t believe I 
could live if I ever found out that you weren’t what 
I think you 

Pearl {Wzth her tongue m her cheek ] You shan’t, if I can 
help it 

Fenwick You do care for me a little, girlie^ 

Pearl Of course I do 

Fenwick I’m an old man, girlie 

Pearl What nonsense! I look upon you as a mere boy 

Fenwick [. Flattered ] Well, I expect a good many young 
men would be glad to have my physique I can work 
fourteen hours on end and feel as fresh as a daisy at 
the end of it 

Pearl Your vitality is wonderful 

Fenwick I sometimes wonder what it is that first drew you 
to me, girlie 

Pearl I don’t know I suppose it was the impression of 
strength you give 

Fenwick Yes, I’ve often been told that It’s very difficult 
for people to be with me long without realising that — 
well, that I’m not just the man in the street. 

Pearl I always feel I can rely on you 

Fenwick You couldn’t have said anything to please me 
better I want you to rely on me I know you I’m 
the only man who’s ever understood you I know that, 
deep down m that big, beating, human heart of yours, 
you’re a timid, helpless little thing, with the innocence 
of a child, and you want a man like me to stand between 
you and the world My God, how I love you, girliel 

Pearl Take care, there’s the butler 

Fenwick Oh, damn it, there’s always the butler 

[Pole comes tn with a telegram and a parcel of books 



ACT I 


38 OUR BETTERS 

Pearl [Taking the telegram and glancing at the parcel ] What’s 
that, Pole? 

Pole They’re books, my lady They’ve just come from 
Hatchard’s 

Pearl Oh, I know Undo them, will you? [Pole cuts 
open the parcel and takes out a bundle of four or five books 
Pearl opens the telegram ] Oh, botherl There’s no 
answer, Pole 

Pole Very good, my lady 

[Exit 

Fenwick Is anything the matter? 

Pearl That fool Sturrey was dining here to-night, and 
he’s just wired to say he can’t come I do hate having 
my parties upset I’d asked ten people to meet him 

Fenwick That’s too bad 

Pearl Pompous owl He’s refused invitation after invi- 
tation I asked him six weeks ago this time, and he 
hadn’t the face to say he was engaged 

Fenwick Well, I’m afraid you must give him up I daresay 
you can do without him 

Pearl Don’t be a fool, Arthur I’ll get hold of him some- 
how He may be Prime Minister one of these days 
[She reflects a moment ] I wonder what his telephone 
number is [She gets up and looks tn a book , then sits down 
at the telephone ] Gerrard 703 5 If he comes once because 
I force him to he’ll come again because he likes it This 
house is like the kingdom of heaven I have to compel 
them to come in Is Lord Sturrey in? Lady 
Grayston I’ll hold the line [Making her voice sweet and 
charming ] Is that you, Lord Sturrey? It’s Pearl Grayston 
speaking I just rang up to say it doesn’t matter a bit 
about to-night Of course. I’m disappointed you can’t 
come But you must come another day, will you" 
That’s very nice of you How about this day week? 



ACT I OUR BETTERS 39 

Oh, I’m sorry Would Thursday suit you^ Oh! Well, 
how about Friday^ You’re engaged every evening next 
week? You are m demand Well, I’ll tell you wh*t, get 
your book and tell me what day you are free 

Fenwick You’re the goods, girlie You’ll get there 

Pearl Tuesday fortnight Yes, that’ll suit me beautifully 
830 I’m so glad you chose that day, because I’m having 
Kreisler in to play I shall look forward to seeing you 
Good-bye [She puts down the receiver ] This time I’ve 
got him The ape thinks he understands music 

Fenwick Have you got Kreisler for Tuesday fortnight^ 

Pearl No 

Fenwick Are you sure you can get him? 

Pearl No, but I’m sure you can 

Fenwick You shall have him, girlie [She takes the boons 
that Pole brought in and puts them about the room One 
she places face downwards , open ] What are you doing 
that fon* 

Pearl They’re Richard Twinmg’s books He’s coming to 
dinner to-night 

Fenwick Why d’you trouble about authors, girlie^ 

Pearl London isn’t like New York, you know People 
like to meet them over here 

Fenwick I should have thought your position was quite 
strong enough to do without them 

Pearl We live in a democratic age They take the place 
in society of the fools whom kings kept about their 
courts in the middle ages They have the advantage 
that they don’t presume on their position to tell one 
home truths They’re cheap A dinner and a little 
flattery v> all they want And they provide their own 
clothes 

Fenwick You litter up your house with their rotten books 



40 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT I 


Pearl Oh, but I don't keep them These are on approval 
I shall send them all back to the bookseller to-morrow 
morning 

Fenwick Pearl, you're a little wonder When you want to 
go into business you come to me and Fll take you into 
partnership 

Pearl How is business? 

Fenwick Fine! I'm opening two new branches next week 
They laughed at me when I first came over here They 
said I'd go bankrupt I've turned their silly old methods 
upside down He laughs longest who laughs last 

Pearl [Reflectively ] Ah, I can't help thinking that's what 
my dressmaker said when she sent me in my bill 

[He gives a slight start and looks at her shrewdly He 
sees her blandly smiling ] 

Fenwick Girlie, you promised me you wouldn’t run up 
any more bills 

Peirl That's like promising to love, honour, and obey 
one's husband, the kind of undertaking no one is really 
expected to carry out 

Fenwick You naughty little thing 

Pearl It's Suzanne — you know, the dressmaker in the 
Place Vendome The war has dislocated her business 
and she wants to get her money in It isn't very con- 
venient for me to pay just at present It's rather a large 
sum [She gives him a sheaf of typewritten documents ] 

Fenwick This looks more like a five-act play than a bill 

Pearl Clothes are expensive, aren't they? I wish I could 
dress in fig-leaves It would be cheap, and I believe it 
would suit me 

Fenwick [Putting the hill tn his pocket ] Well, Fll see what 
I can do about it 

Pearl You are a duck, Arthur Would you like me 
to come and lunch with you to-morrow? 



ACT I 


OUR BETTERS 


41 


Fenwick Why, sure 

Pearl All right Now you must go, as I want to he down 
before I dress for dinner 

Fenwick That’s right Take care of yourself, girlie, you’re 
very precious to me 

Pearl Good-bye, dear old thing 

Fenwick Good-bye, girlie 

[He goes out As he goes to the door the telephone rings 
Pearl takes up the receiver 

Pearl You’re speaking to Lady Grayston Tony! Of 
course I knew your voice Well, what is it? I’m not at 
all stern, I’m making my voice as pleasant as I can 
I’m sorry you find it disagreeable [She gives a chuckle ] 
No, I’m afraid I couldn’t come to tea to-morrow 1 
shall be engaged all the afternoon. What is the day 
after to-morrow? [Smiling ] Well, I must ask Bessie 
I don’t know if she’s free Of course I’m not coming 
alone It would be most compromising A nice-looking 
young man like you What would Minnie say^ Oh, I 
know all about that I didn’t promise anything 
I merely said the future was everybody’s property A 
sleepless night Fancy! Well, good-bye Tony, 
do you know the most enchanting word in the English 
language? Perhaps 

[She puts down the telephone quickly, and the curtain falls 


END OF THE FIRST AC1 



THE SECOND ACT 


The Scene ts a morning-room at Abbots Kenton, the Grays tons 
place in the country It has an old-fashioned, comfortable 
look , nothing ts very new, the chintzes are faded Three long 
french windows lead on to a terrace 

It is after dinner, a fine night, and the windows are open 

The women of the party are sitting down, waiting for the men, 
they are Pearl and Bessie, the Duchesse de Surennes 
and the Princess della Cercola 

Princess You must be exhausted after all the tennis you 
played this afternoon, Minnie 

Duchesse Not a bit I only played four sets 

Princess You played so vigorously It made me quite hot 
to look at you 

Duchesse If I didn’t take exercise I should be enormous 
Oh, Flora, how I envy you! You can eat anything you 
choose and it has no effect on you And what makes 
it so unfair is that you don’t care about food I am a 
lazy and a greedy woman I never eat any of the things 
I like, and I never miss a day without taking at least 
an hour’s exerase 

Princess [Smiling ] If mortification is the first step in 
sanctity, I’m sure you must be on the high road to it 

Pearl One of these days you’ll give up the struggle, 
Minnie, and, like Flora, take to good works 

Duchesse [With immense decision ] Never! I shall he on my 
death-bed with my hair waved and a little rouge on my 
cheeks, and with my last breath murmur Not gruel, 
it’s so fattening 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT n 


43 


Pearl Well, you’ll have more serious tenms to-morrow 
Harry Bleane plays much better than Thornton 
Duchesse It was very tiresome of him not to come till it 
was just time to dress 

Pearl He only got back from Rumania yesterday, and he 
had to go down to see his mother [With an amused 
glance at her szster ] Bessie asked me not to put him nest 
her at dinner 

Bessie Pearl, you are a cat f I do think it’s hateful the way 
you discuss my private affairs with all and sundry 
Duchesse My dear Bessie, they’ve long ceased to be your 
private affairs 

Pearl Fm afraid Bessie misses her opportunities Just 
before he went to Rumama I left them alone together, 
and nothing happened All my tact was wasted 
Bessie Your tact was too obvious. Pearl 
Duchesse Well, do be quick and bring turn to the scratch, 
my dear I’m growing tired of people asking me. Is 
he going to propose or is he noP 
Bessie Don’t they ever ask. Is she going to accept him or 
is she not^ 

Duchesse Of course, you’ll accept him 
Bessie Fm not so sure 

Princess [Smiling ] Perhaps it depends on tne way he asks 
Pearl For heaven’s sake, don’t expect too much romance 
Englishmen aren’t romantic It makes them feel absurd 
George proposed to me when he was in New York 
for the Horse Show I wasn’t very well that day, and 
I was lying down I was looking a perfect fright He 
told me all about a mare he had, and he told me all 
about her father and her mother and her uncles and her 
aunts, and then he said [Imitating him ] Look here, you’d 
better marry me. 

Princess How very sudden. 



44 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


Pearl Oh, I said, why didn’t you tell me you were going 
to propose^ I’d have had my hair waved Poor George, 
he asked Why? 

Duchesse The French are the only nation who know how 
to make love When Gaston proposed to me he went 
down on his knees, and he took my hand, and he said 
he couldn’t live without me Of course I knew that, 
because he hadn’t a cent, but still it thrilled me He 
said I was his guiding star and his guardian angel — 
oh, I don’t know what* It was beautiful* I knew he’d 
been haggling with papa for a fortnight about having 
his debts paid, but it was beautiful 

Princess Were you quite indifferent to hinP 

Duchesse Oh, quite I’d made up my mind to marry a 
foreigner People weren’t very nice to us in Chicago 
My cousin JVlary had married the Count de Moret, and 
mother couldn’t “bear Aunt Alice She said. If Alice 
has got hold of a Count for Mary, I’m determined that 
you shall have a Duke 

Pearl And you did 

Duchesse I wish you could have seen the fuss those 
Chicago people made of me when I went over last It 
was hard to realise that I used to cry my eyes out because 
I wasn’t asked to the balls I wantjed to go to 

Princess Still, I hope Bessie won’t^ marry any m an she 
doesn’t care for 

Pearl My dear, don’t put ideas in the child’s head The 
French are a much more cmksejd nation than we are, 
and they’ve come to the conclusion long ago that 
marriage is an affair of convenience rather than of senti- 
ment Think of the people you know who’ve married 
for love After five years do they care for one another 
an^ more than the people who’ve married for moneys 

Princess* They have the recollections 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT n 


45 


Pearl Nonsense! As if anyone remembered an emotion 
when he no longer felt it! 

Duchesse It’s true I’ve been in love a dozen times, 
desperately, and when I’ve got over it and look back, 
though I remember I was in love, I can’t for the life of 
me remember my love It always seems to me so odd 
Pearl Believe me, Bessie, the flourishing state of father’s 
hardware store is a much sounder basis for matrimonial 
happiness than any amount of passion 
Bessie Oh, Pearl, what is this you’ve been telling people 
about dad selling bananas^ 

Pearl Bananas^ Oh, I remember They were saying that 
Mrs Hanley used to wash the miners’ clothes m Cali- 
fornia That and her pearls are taking her everywhere 
I wasn’t going to be outdone, so I said father used to 
sell bananas in the streets of New York 
Bessie He never did anything of the kind 
Pearl I know he didn’t, but I thought people were getting 
rather tired of the hardware store, and I made a perfectly 
killing story out of it I had a new Callot frock on and 
I thought I could manage the bananas 
Duchesse A most unpleasant vegetable So fattening 

[The men come m Thornton Clay, Arthur Fen- 
wick, and Fleming Pearl and Bessie get up 
Bessie You’ve been a long time 
Duchesse Where is Tony^ 

Clay He and Bleane are finishing their cigars 
Duchesse Well, Mr Harvey, are you still enjoying life in 
London^ 

Clay He should be I’ve got him invitations to all the 
nicest parties But he will waste his time in sight-seeing 
The other day— Thursday, wasn’t it^ — I wanted to take 
him to Hurlmgham, and he insisted on going to the 
National Gallery instead 


c 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


46 

Pearl \Smihng ] What an outrageous proceeding! 

Fleming I don’t see that it was any more outrageous for 
me than for you I saw you coming in just as I was 
going out 

Pearl I had a reason to go Arthur Fenwick has just 
bought a Bronzino, and I wanted to see those in the 
National Gallery 

Duchesse I think it’s much more likely that you had an 
assignation I’ve always heard it’s a wonderful place 
for that You never meet any of your friends, and if 
you do they’re there for the same purpose, and pretend 
not to see you 

Fleming I certainly only went to see the pictures 

Clay But, good heavens, if you want to do that there’s 
Chnstie’s, and there you 22 nil meet your friends 

Fleming I’m afraid you’ll never make a man of fashion 
out of me, Thornton 

Clay I’m beginning to despair You have a natural instinct 
for doing the wrong thing D’you know, the other day 
I caught him in the act of delivering half a bagful of 
letters of introduction? I implored him to put them in 
the waste-paper basket 

Fleming I thought as people had taken the trouble to give 
them to me, it was only polite to make use of them 

Clay Americans give letters so carelessly Before you know 
where you are you’ll know all the wrong people And, 
believe me, the wrong people are very difficult to 
shake off 

Fleming [Amused ] Perhaps some of my letters are to the 
right people 

Clay Then they’ll take no notice of them 

Fleming It looks as though the wrong people had better 
manners than the right ones 

Clay The right people are rude They can afford to be 



ACT n 


OUR BETTERS 


47 


I was a very young man when I first came to London, 
and I made mistakes All of us Americans make mis- 
takes It wanted a good deal of character to cut people 
who’d taken me about, asked me to dine, stay with 
them in the country, and heaven knows what, when 
I found they weren’t the sort of people one ought to 
know 

Pearl Of course, one has to do it 

Duchesse Of course It shows that you have a nice nature, 
Thornton, to worry yourself about it 

Clay I’m curiously sentimental Another of our American 
faults I remember when I’d been in London two or 
three years, I knew pretty well everyone that was worth 
knowing, but I’d never been asked to Hereford House 
The duchess doesn’t like Americans anyway, and she’d 
been very disagreeable about me in particular But I 
was determined to go to her ball I felt it wasn’t the 
sort of function I could afford to be left out of 

Pearl They’re very dull balls 

Clay I know, but they’re almost the only ones you can’t 
go to without an invitation Well, I found out that the 
duchess had a widowed sister who lived in the country 
with her two daughters Lady Helen Blair My dear, 
she was a very stuffy, dowdy woman of fifty-five, and 
her two daughters were stuffier and dowdier still, and 
if possible, older They were in the habit of coming 
up to London for the season I got introduced to them, 
and I laid myself out I took them to the play, I showed 
them round the Academy, I stood them luncheons, I 
gave them cards for private views, for a month I worked 
like a Trojan Then the duchess sent out her invitations, 
and the Blair girls had half a dozen cards for tneir young 
men. I received one, and, by George, I’d earned it Of 
course, as soon as I got my invitation I dropped them, 
but you know I felt quite badly about it 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


48 

Duchesse I expect they’re used to that 

Clay A strangely tactless woman, I ady Helen Blair She 
wrote and asked me if I was offended about anything 
because I never went near them 

Pearl I wish those men would come, and then we could 
dance 

Duchesse Oh, that’ll be charming! It’s such good exer- 
cise, isn’t it* I’m told that you dance divinely, Mr 
Harvey 

Fleming I don’t know about that I dance. 

Duchesse [To the Princess] Oh, my dear, who d’you 
think I danced with the other night? [Impressively] 
Ernest 

Princess Oh! 

Duchesse My dear, don’t say, Oh! like that Don’t you 
know who Ernest is* 

Pearl Ernest is the most sought after man in London 

Princess You don’t mean the dancing-master? 

Duchesse Oh, my dear, you mustn’t call him that He’d 
be furious He isn’t a professional He gives lessons 
at ten guineas an hour, but only to oblige He’s invited 
to all the best dances 

Fleming One of the things that rather surprised me at 
balls was to see all these dancing-masters Do English 
girls like to be pawed about by Greeks, Dagos and 
Bowery toughs? 

Clay You Americans who live in America, you’re so 
prudish 

Duchesse Believe me, I would go to any dance where there 
was the remotest chance of meeting Ernest It’s a 
perfect dream to dance with him He showed me a 
new step, and I can’t get it quite right I don’t know 
what I shall do if I don’t run across him again very soon 

Princess But why don’t you let him give you a lesson* 



ACT II 


OUR BETTERS 


49 


Duchesse My dear, ten guineas an hour! I couldn’t 
possibly afford that I’m sure to meet him at a dance in 
a day or two, and I shall get a lesson for nothing 
Pearl You ought to make him fall in love with you 
Duchesse Oh, my dear, if he only would! But he’s so run 
after 

[Bleane and Tony Paxton come tn from the terrace 
Duchesse At last! 

Tony We’ve been taking a stroll in the garden 

Pearl I hope you showed him my tea-house 

Bessie It’s Pearl’s new toy You must be sure to admire it 

Pearl I’m very proud of it You know, George won’t 
let me do anything here He says it’s his house, and 
he isn’t going to have any of my muck He won’t even 
have new chint2es Well, there was an old summer- 
house just over there, and it was all worm-eaten and 
hornd and tumble-down, what they call picturesque, 
but it was rather a nice place to go and have tea in as it 
had a really charming view, I wanted to pull it down and 
put up a smart Japanese tea-house instead, but George 
wouldn’t hear of it, because, if you please, his mother — 
a peculiarly plain woman — used to sit and sew there 
Well, I bided my time, and the other day, when George 
was in London, I pulled down the old summer-house, 
got my Japanese tea-house down from town, put it up, 
and had everything finished by the time George came 
back twenty-four hours later He very nearly had an 
apoplectic stroke If he had I should have lolled two 
birds with one stone 
Bessie Pearl! 

Princess I don’t know why you’ve furnished it so 
elaborately 

Pearl Well, I thought in the hot weather I’d sleep tnere 
sometimes It’ll be just like sleeping in the open air 



JO OUR BETTERS ACT II 

Fenwick These young people want to start dancing, 
Pearl 

Pearl Where would you like to dance, in here with the 
gramophone, or in the drawing-room with the pianola ? 5 

Bessie Oh, in the drawing-room 

Pearl Let’s go there then 

Bessie [To Clay ] Come and help me get the rolls out 

Clay Right you are 

[They go out> followed by the Duchesse and Pearl, 
Tony, Fenwick, and Bleane 

Fleming [To the Princess ] Aren’t you coming? 

Princess No, I think I’ll stay here for the present But 
don’t bother about me You must go and dance 

Fleming There are enough men without me I’m sure 
Thornton Clay is a host in himself 

Princess You don’t like Thornton ? 5 

Fleming He’s been very kind to me since I came to 
London 

Princess I was watching your face when he told that story 
about the Hereford ball You must learn to conceal your 
feelings better 

Fleming Didn’t you think it was horrible ? 5 

Princess Fve known Thornton for ten years I’m used to 
him And as you say yourself, he’s very kind 

Fleming That’s what makes life so difficult People don’t 
seem to be good or bad as the squares on a chessboaid 
are black or white Even the worthless ones have got 
good traits, and it makes it so hard to know how to 
deal with them 

Princess [Smiling a little] You don’t approve of poor 
Thornton ? 5 

Fleming What do you expect me to think of a man who’s 
proud of having forced his way into a house where he 



ACT II 


OUR BETTERS 


5 * 


knew he wasn’t wanted^ He reckons success by the 
number of invitations he receives He holds himself up 
to me as an example He tells me that if I want to get 
into society, I must work for it What do they think 
of a man like Thornton Clay in England^ Don’t they 
despise him? 

Princess Everywhere, in New York just as much as in 
London, there are masses of people struggling to get 
<" into society It’s so common a sight that one loses the 
sense of there being anything disgraceful in it Pearl 
would tell you that English society is a little pompous, 
they welcome a man who can make them laugh Thorn- 
ton is very useful He has high spirits, he’s amusing, 
he makes a party go 

Fleming I should have thought a man could find some 
better use for his life than that 

Princess Thornton has plenty of money Do you think 
there is any point in his spending his life making more ? 
I sometimes think there’s too much money in America 
already 

F lem ing There are things a man can do beside making 
money 

Princess You know, American wealth has reached a pitch 
when it was bound to give rise to a leisured class 
Thornton is one of the first members of it Perhaps he 
doesn’t play the part very well, but remember he hasn’t 
had the time to learn it that they’ve had in Europe 

Fleming [Smhng ] I’m afraid you don’t think me very 
charitable 

Princess You’re young It’s a real pleasure to me to know 
a nice clean American boy And I’m so glad that you’re 
not going to be dazzled by this English life that dazzles 
so many of our countrymen Amuse yourself, learn 
what you can from it, take all the good it offers you 
and go back to America. 



52 OUR BETTERS ACT n 

Fleming I shall be glad to go back Perhaps I ought never 
to have come 

Princess Fm afraid you’re not very happy 

Fleming I don’t know what makes you think that 

Princess It’s not very hard to see that you’re in love with 
Bessie 

Fleming Did you know that I was engaged to her^ 

Princess [Surprised] No 

Fleming I was engaged to her before I went to Harvard 
I was eighteen then, and she was sixteen 

Princess How very early in life you young people settle 
things in America! 

Fleming Perhaps it was rather silly and childish But when 
she wrote and told me that she thought we’d better break 
it off, I discovered I cared more than I thought 

Princess What did you say to her 5 

Fleming I couldn’t try to hold her to a promise she gave 
when she was a schoolgirl I answered that I sympathised 
and understood 

Princess When did this happen? 

Fleming A couple of months ago Then I got the chance 
to go over to Europe and I thought I’d come to see 
what was going on It didn’t take me long to tumble 

Princess You’re bearing it very well 

Fleming Oh, the only thing I could do was to be pleasant 
I should only have bored her if I’d made love to her 
She took our engagement as an amusing joke, and there 
wasn’t anything for me to do but accept her view of 
it She was having the time of her life At first I thought 
perhaps she’d grow tired of all these balls and parties, 
and then if I was on the spot I might persuade her to 
come back to America with me 

Princess You may still 



ACT II 


OUR BETTERS 


53 

Fleming No, I haven’t a chance The first day I arrived 
she told me how wonderful she thought this English 
life She thinks it full and varied She thinks it has 
beauty 

Princess That sounds rather satirical 

Fleming Pearl has been very nice to me She’s taken me 
about, I've driven with her constantly, I’ve sat m her 
box at the opera, I’m her guest at the moment If I 
had any decency I’d hold my tongue 

Princess WelP 

Fleming [Bursting out impetuously ] There’s something in 
these surroundings that makes me feel terribly uncom- 
fortable Under the brilliant surface I suspect all kinds 
of ugly and shameful secrets that everyone knows and 
pretends not to This is a strange house in which the 
husband is never seen and Arthur Fenwick, a vulgar 
sensualist, acts as host, and it’s an attractive spectacle, 
this painted duchess devouring with her eyes a boy 
young enough to be her son And the conversation — 
I don’t want to seem a prude, I daresay people over 
here talk more freely than the people I’ve known, but 
surely there are women who don’t have lovers, there 
are such things as honour and decency and self-restraint 
If Bessie is going to remain over here I wish to God 
she’d marry her lord at once and get out of it quickly 

Princess D’you think she’ll be happy ? 

Fleming Are they any of them happy^ How can they 
expect to be happy when they marry for [The 
Princess gives a sudden start , and Fleming stops short ] 
I beg your pardon I was forgetting Please forgive me 
You see, you’re so different 

Princess I’m sorry I interrupted you What were you 
going to say^ 

Fleming It wasn’t of any importance You see, I’ve been 
thinking it over so much that it’s rather got on my 



54 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


nerves And I haven’t been able to tell anyone what I 
was thinking about I’m dreadfully sorry 
Princess You were going to say, how can they expect to 
be happy when they many for a trumpery title? You 
thought, they’re snobs, vulgar snobs, and the misery of 
their lives is the proper punishment for their ignoble 
desires 

Fleming [Very apologetically} Princess 
Princess [Iromcally ] Princess 

Fleming Believe me, I hadn’t the smallest intention of 
saying anything to wound you 
Princess You haven’t It’s too true Most of us who 
marry foreigners are merely snobs But I wonder if it’s 
all our fault We’re not shown a better way of life No 
one has even hinted to us that we have any duty towards 
our own country We’re blamed because we marry 
foreigners, but columns are written about us in the 
papers, and our photographs are in all the magazines 
Our friends are excited and envious After all, we are 
human At first, when people addressed me as Princess, 
I couldn’t help feeling thrilled Of course it was 
snobbishness 

Fleming You make me feel a terrible cad 
Princess But sometimes there’ve been other motives, too 
Has it ever occurred to you that snobbishness is the 
spirit of romance in a reach-me-down? I was only 
twenty when I married Marino I didn’t see him as a 
fortune-hunting Dago, but as the successor of a long 
line of statesmen and warriors There’d been a pope in 
his family, and a dozen cardinals, one of his ancestors 
had been painted by Titian, for centuries they’d been 
men of war, with power of life and death, I’d seen the 
great feudal castle, with its hundred rooms, where they 
had ruled as independent sovereigns When Marino 
came and asked me to marry him it was romance that 



ACT n 


OUR BETTERS 


55 


stood in his shoes and beckoned to me I thought of 
the palace in Rome, which I had visited as a tripper, and 
where I might reign as mistress I thought it was 
splendid to take my place after all those great ladies, 
Orsmis, Colonnas, Gaetams, Aldobrandims I loved him 

Fleming But there’s no need to tell me that you could 
never do anything from an unworthy motive 

Princess My husband’s family had been ruined by specu- 
lation He was obliged to sell himself He sold himself 
for five million dollars And I loved him You can 
imagine the rest First he was indifferent to me, then 
I bored him, and at last he hated me Oh, the humiliation 
I endured When my child died I couldn’t bear it any 
longer, I left him I went back to America I found 
myself a stranger I was out of place, the life had become 
foreign to me, I couldn’t live at home I settled in 
England, and here we’re strangers too I’ve paid very 
heavily for being a romantic girl 

[Bessie comes in 

Bessie Really, Fleming, it’s too bad of you to sit in here 
and flirt with the Princess We want you to come and 
dance 

[The Princess, aguated , gets up and goes out into the 
garden ] 

Bessie [Looking after her ] Is anything the matter* 

Fleming No 

Bessie Are you coming to dance, or are you not* 

Fleming I had quite a talk with Lord Bleane after dinner, 
Bessie 

Bessie [Smiling ] Well* 

Fleming Are you going to accept the coronet that he’s 
dangling before your eyes* 

Bessie It would be more to the point if you asked whether 
I’m going to accept the coronet that he’s laying at my feet 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


56 

Fleming He’s a very nice fellow, Bessie. 

Bessie I know that 
Fleming I wanted to dislike him 
Bessie Why? 

Fleming Well, I don’t think much of these English lords 
who run after American girls for their money I expected 
him to be a brainless loafer, with just enough cunning 
to know his market value, but he’s a modest, unassuming 
fellow To tell you the truth. I’m puzzled 
Bessie {Chaffing him ] Fancy that! 

Fleming I think it’s a low-down thing that he’s doing, and 
yet he doesn’t seem a low-down fellow 
Bessie He might be in love with me, you know 
Fleming Is he? 

Bessie No 

Fleming Are you going to marry him? 

Bessie I don’t know 

Fleming I suppose he’s come here to ask you? 

Bessie {After a short pause ] He asked me a month ago I 
promised to give him an answer when he came back 
from Rumania I’m in a panic He’s waiting to 
get me alone I was able to be quite flippant about it 
when I had a month before me, but now, when I’ve 
got to say yes or no, I’m so jumpy I don’t know what 
to do with myselt 
Fleming Don’t marry him, Bessie 
Bessie Why not? 

Fleming Well, first, you’re no more in love with him than 
he is with you 
Bessie And then? 

Fleming Isn’t that enough? 

Bessie I wonder if you realise what he offers me. Do you 
know what the position of an English peeress is? 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


57 


Fleming Does it mean so much to be called Your Ladyship 
by tradesmen^ 

Bessie You donkey, Fleming If I marry an American 
boy my life will be over if I marry Harry Bleane it will 
be only just beginning Look at Pearl I could do what 
she’s done, I could do more, because George Grayston 
isn’t ambitious I could make Harry do anything I liked 
He would go into politics, and I should have a salon 
Why, I could do anything 

Fleming \Dryly ] I don’t know why you should be in a 
panic You’ve evidently made up your mind You’ll 
have a brilliant marriage with crowds outside the church, 
your photograph will be in all the papers, you’ll go away 
for your honeymoon, and you’ll come back What will 
you do then^ 

Bessie Why, settle down 

Fleming Will you break your heart like the Princess be- 
cause your husband has taken a mistress, or will you 
take lovers like the Duchesse de Surennes, or will you 
bore yourself to death like Pearl because your husband 
is virtuous, and wants you to do your dut) ? 

Bessie Fleming, you’ve got no right to say things like that 
to me 

Fleming I’m sorry if I’ve made you angry I had to say it 

Bessie Are you quite sure that it’s for my sake you don’t 
want me to marry Lord Bleane^ 

Fleming Yes, I think it is When you broke off our engage- 
ment I didn’t blame you You wouldn’t have done it 
if you’d cared for me, and it wasn’t your fault if you 
didn’t When I came over I saw that I could expect 
nothing but friendship from you You must do me the 
justice to acknowledge that during this month I haven’t 
given the smallest sign that I wanted anything else 

Bessie Oh, you’ve been charming You always were the 
best friend I’ve had 



ACT II 


58 OUR BETTERS 

Fleming If in a corner of my heart I kept my love for you, 
that is entirely my affair I don’t know that it puts you 
to any inconvenience, and it pleases me I’m quite sure 
that I’m only thinking now of your happiness Go back 
to America, and fall in love with some nice fellow, and 
marry him You’ll have all my best wishes Perhaps 
your life won’t be so brilliant or so exciting, but it will 
be simpler and wholesomer, and more becoming 

Bessie You’re a dear, Fleming, and if I said anything dis- 
agreeable just now, forgive me I didn’t mean it I 
shall always want you to be my dearest friend 

[Lord Bleane enters from the terrace 

Bleane I was looking for you everywhere I wondered 
where you’d got to 

[There is a momenfs pause Fleming Harvey looks 
from Bessie to Bleane 

Fleming I really must go and dance with the Duchesse or 
she’ll never forgive me 

Bleane I’ve just been dancing with her My dear fellow, 
it’s the most violent form of exercise I’ve ever taken 

Fleming I’m in very good condition. 

[He goes out 

Bleane Blessings on him. 

Bessie Why? 

Bleane Because he’s left us alone Ask me another 

Bessie I don’t think I will 

Bleane Then I’ll ask you one 

Bessie Please don’t Tell me all about Rumania 

Bleane Rumania is a Balkan State Its capital 1$ Bucharest 
It has long been known for its mineral springs 

Bessie You’re in very high spirits to-night 

Bleane You may well wonder Everything has conspired 
to depress them 



59 


ACT II OUR BETTERS 

Bessie Oh, what nonsense! 

Bleane First I was in England thirty-six hours before I 
had a chance of seeing you, secondly, when I arrived 
you’d already gone up to dress, then, when I was ex- 
pecting to sit next you at dinner, I was put between Lady 
Grayston and the Princess, and, lastly, you made me 
pound away at that beastly pianola when I wanted to 
dance with you 

Bessie Well, you’ve survived it all 

Bleane What I want to point out to you is that if notwith- 
standing Pm in high spirits, I must have a most engaging 
nature 

Bessie I never dreamt of denying it 

Bleane So much to the good 

Bessie The man’s going to propose to me 

Bleane No, Pm not 

Bessie I beg your pardon My mistake 

Bleane I did that a month ago 

Bessie There’s been a change of moon since then, and no 
proposal holds good after the new moon 
Bleane I never knew that 
Bessie You’ve been down to see your mother 
Bleane She sends you her love 
Bessie Have you told her? 

Bleane I told her a month ago 

[Bessie does not speak for a moment, when she answers 
it ts more gravely ] 

Bessie You know, I want to be frank with you You won’t 
think it disagreeable of me, will you? I’m not in love 
with you 

Bleane I know But you don’t positively dislike me? 
Bessie No I like you very much 



6o 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


Bleane Won’t you nsk it then? 

Bessie [Almost tragically ] I can’t make up my mind 

Bleane FU do all I can to make you happy I’ll try not to 
make a nuisance of myself 

Bessie I know quite well that I wouldn’t marry you if you 
weren’t who you are, and I’m afraid I know that you 
wouldn’t marry me if I hadn’t a certain amount of 
money 

Bleane Oh, yes, I would 

Bessie It’s nice of you to say so 

Bleane Don’t you believe it^ 

Bessie I suppose I’m a perfect fool v "night to play the 
game prettily You see, I know thar you can’t afford to 
marry a girl who isn’t well-to-do Everyone knows 
what I have Pearl has taken good care that they should 
You wouldn’t ever have thought of me otherwise 
We’re arranging a deal You give your title and your 
position, and I give my money It’s a commonplace 
thing enough, but somehow it sticks in my throat 

[Bleane hesitates a moment , and walks up and down 
thmbng J 

Bleane You make me feel an awful swine The worst of 
it is that some part of what you say is true I’m not 
such a fool that I didn’t see your sister was throwing 
us together I don’t want to seem a conceited ass, but 
a fellow in my sort of position can’t help knowing that 
many people think him rather a catch Mothers of 
marriageable daughters are very transparent sometimes, 
you know, and if they don’t marry their daughters 
they’re determined it shan’t be for want of trying 

Bessie Oh, I can quite believe that I have noticed it m 
American mothers, too 

Bleane I knew it would be a good dung if I married you 
I don’t suppose I should have thought about you if I 



SlCT II OUR BETTERS 6l 

hadn’t been told you were pretty well off It’s beastly 
now, saying all that 

Bessie I don’t see why 

Bleane Because after a bit I found out I’d fallen in love 
with you And then I didn’t care if you hadn’t got a 
bob I wanted to marry you because — because I didn’t 
know what to do without you 

Bessie Harry! 

Bleane Do believe me I swear it’s true I don’t care a 
hang about the money After all, we could get along 
without it And I love you 

Bessie It’s very good to hear you say that I’m so absurdly 
pleased and flattered 

Bleane You do believe it, don’t you? 

Bessie Yes 

Bleane And will you marry me? 

Bessie If you like 

Bleane Of course I like [He takes her in his arms and 
kisses her ] 

Bessie Take care, someone might come in 

Bleane [Smiling and happy ] Come into the garden with me 

[He stretches out his hand , she hesitates a moment , 
smiles, takes it, and together they go out on to the 
terrace 

For a moment the mum of a one-step is heard 
more loudly , and then the Duchesse and Tony 
Paxton come in She sinks into a chair fanning 
herself, and he goes over to a table, takes a cigarette, 
and lights it 

Duchesse Did you see^ That was Harry Bleane and Bessie 
I wondered where they were 

Tony You’ve got eyes like a lynx 

Duchesse I’m positive they were hand in hand 



6l 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


Tony It looks as if she’d worked it at last 
Duchesse I don’t know about that It looks as if he’d 
worked it 

Tony She’s not such a catch as all that If I were a peer 
I’d sell myself for a damned sight more than eight 
thousand a year 

Duchesse Don’t stand so far away, Tony Come and sit 
on the sofa by me 

Tony [Go mg over to her ] I say, I’ve been talking to Bleane 
about two-seaters 
Duchesse [Very coldly ] Oh! 

Tony [ Giving her a look out of the corner of his eye ] He says 
I can’t do better than get a Talbot 
Duchesse I don’t see why you want a car of your own 
You can always use one of mine 
Tony That’s not the same thing After all, it won’t cost 
much I can get a ripper for just over twelve hundred 
pounds, with a really smart body 
Duchesse You talk as though twelve hundred pounds were 
nothing at all 

Tony Hang it all, it isn’t anything to you 
Duchesse What with the income tax and one thing and 
another. I’m not so terribly flush just now No one 
knows the claims I have on me Because one has a 
certain amount of money one’s supposed to be made of 
It They don’t realise that if one spends it in one way 
one can’t spend it in another It cost me seven thousand 
pounds to have my house redecorated 
Tony [Sulkily ] You said I could buy myself a car 
Duchesse I said I’d think about it I wasn’t under the 
impression that you’d go and order one right away 
Tony I’ve practically committed myself now 
Duchesse You only want a car so that you can be inde- 
pendent of toe 



ACT IX OUR BETTERS 63 

Tony Well, hang it all, you can’t expect me to be tied to 
your apron-strings always It’s a bit thick if whenever 
I want to take a man down to play golf I have to ring 
up and ask if I can have one of your cars It makes me 
look such an ass 

Duchesse If it’s only to play golf you want it. I’m sure any- 
one would rather go down to the links in a comfortable 
Rolls-Royce than in a two-seater 

[A silence 

Tony If you don’t want to give me a car, why on earth 
did you say you would^ 

Duchesse [Putting her hand on him ] Tony 

Tony For goodness’ sake don’t touch me, 

Duchesse [Hurt and mortified ] Tony! 

Tony I don’t want to force you to make me presents I 
can quite well do without a two-seater I can go about 
m omnibuses if it comes to that 

Duchesse Don’t you love me^ 

Tony I wish you wouldn’t constantly ask me if I love 
you It is maddening 

Duchesse Oh, how can you be so cruel to me ! 

Tony [Exasperated] D’you think this is quite the best 
place to choose to make a scene^ 

Duchesse I love you with all my heart I’ve never loved 
anybody as much as I love you 

Tony No man could stand being loved so much D’you 
t hink it’s jolly for me to feel that your eyes are glued 
on me whatever I’m doing^ I can never put my hand 
out without finding yours there ready to press it 

Duchesse I can’t help it if I love you That’s my tem- 
perament 

Tony Yes, but you needn’t show it so much Why don’t 
you leave me to do the love-making^ 



A.CT II 


64 OUR BETTERS 

Duchesse If I did that there wouldn’t be any love-making 

Tony You make me look such a fool 

Duchesse Don’t you know there’s nothing in the world I 
wouldn’t do for you ? 

Tony \Qutckly ] Well, why don’t you marry me ? 

Duchesse [ With a gasp ] I can’t do that You know that 
I can’t do that 

Tony Why noP You could still call yourself Duchesse de 
Surennes 

Duchesse No, I’ve always told you nothing would induce 
me to marry 

Tony That shows how much you love me 

Duchesse Marriage is so middle-class It takes away all 
the romance of love 

Tony You simply want to have your freedom and keep 
me bound hand and foot D’you think it’s jolly for me 
to know what people say about me ? After all, I have 
got some pride 

Duchesse I’m sure we shall be able to get you a job soon, 
and then no one will be able to say anything 

Tony I’m getting fed up with the whole business, I tell 
you that straight I’d just as soon chuck it 

Duchesse Tony, you don’t mean to say you want to leave 
me I’ll kill myself if you do I couldn’t bear it, I 
couldn’t bear it I’ll kill myself 

Tony For God’s sake, don’t make such a row 

Duchesse Say vou don’t mean it, Tony I shall scream 

Toot After all. I’ve got my self-respect to think of It 
seems to me the best thing would be if we put a stop 
to the whole thing now 

Duchesse Oh, I can’t lose you I can’t 



ACT II OUR BETTERS 65 

Tony No one can say I’m mercenary, but hang it all, one 
has to think of one’s future I shan’t be twenty five for 
ever I ought to be settling down 
Duchesse Don’t you care for me any more^ 

Tony Of course I care for you If I didn’t, d’you think 
I’d have let you do all you have for me? 

Duchesse Then why d’you make me so unhappy? 

Tony I don’t want to make you unhappy, but really some- 
times you are unreasonable 
Duchesse You mean about the car? 

Tony I wasn’t thinking about the car then. 

Duchesse You can have it if you like 
Tony I don’t want it now 
Duchesse Tony, don’t be unkind 

Tony I’m not going to take any more presents from you 
Duchesse I didn’t mean to be unreasonable I’d like you 
to have the car, Tony I’ll give you a cheque for it 
to-morrow [Coaxwgly ] Tell me what the body’s like 
Tony [Sulkily ] Oh, it’s a torpedo body 
Duchesse You’ll take me for drives in it sometimes? 

[He turns round and looks at her , she puts out hr hand> 
he thaws , and smiles engagingly 
Tony I say, you are awfully kind to me 
Duchesse You do like me a little, don’t you? 

Tony Of course I do 

Duchesse You have a good heart, Tony Kiss me 
Tony [Kissing her , pleased and excited ] I saw an awfully 
jolly body in a shop in Trafalgar Square the day before 
yesterday I’ve got half a mind to get the people who 
made your body to copy it 

Duchesse Why don’t you get it at the shop you saw it at? 
My people are terribly expensive, and they aren’t any 
better than anybody else 



ACT II 


66 OUR BETTERS 

Tont Well, you see, I don’t know anything about the firm 
I just happened to catch sight of it as I was passing 

Duchesse What on earth were you doing in Trafalgar 
Square on Thursday^ I thought you were going to 
Ranelagh 

Tony I was put off I hadn’t got anything to do, so I 
thought I’d just slope round the National Gallery for 
half an hour 

Duchesse That’s the last place I should have expected you 
to go to 

Tony I don’t mind haying a look at pictures now and 
then 

[A sudden suspicion corns to the Duchesse that he was 
there with Pearl, but she makes no sign that he 
can see 

Duchesse [Blandly ] Did you look at the Bronzinos^ 

Tony \F ailing into the trap ] Yes Arthur Fenwick bought 
one the other day at Christie’s He pud a devil of a 
price for it too 

Duchesse [Clenching her hands in the effort to hide her agita- 
tion ] Oh? 

Tony I do think it’s rot, the prices people pay for old 
masters I’m blowed if I’d give ten thousand pounds 
for a picture 

Duchesse We’ll go to the National Gallery together one 
of these days, shall we? 

Tony I don’t know that I want to make a habit of it, you 
know 

[Pearl and Thornton Clay come in During the 
conversation the Duchesse surreptitiously watches 
Pearl and Tony for signs of an intelligence between 
them 

Pearl I’ve got great news for you Bessie and Harry 
Bleane are engaged 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


67 


Duchesse Oh, my dear, I’m so glad How gratified you 
must ber 

Pearl Yes, Fm delighted You must come and congratu- 
late them 

Clay Above all we must congratulate one another We’ve 
all worked for it. Pearl 

Tony He hadn’t much chance, poor blighter, had he^ 

Pearl We’re going to have one more dance, and then 
Arthur wants to play poker You must come 
Clay [To the Duchesse] Will you dance this with me, 
Minnie^ 

Duchesse I’d like to 

[Clay gives her his arm She thi ows Tony and Pearl a 
glance , and purses her lips She goes out with Clay 
Pearl You haven’t danced with me yet, Tony You should 
really pay some attention to your hostess 
Tony I say, don’t go 
Pearl Why noP 

Tony Because I want to talk to you 
Pearl [Flippantly ] If you want to whisper soft nothings 
in my ear, you’ll find the one-step exceedingly con- 
venient 

Tony You’re a little beast, Pearl 
Pearl You’ve been having a long talk with Minnie 
Tony Oh, she’s been making me a hell of a scene 
Pearl Poor thing, she can’t help it She adores you* 

Tony I wish she didn’t, and you did 
Pearl [With a chuckle] My dear, it’s your only attraction 
for me that she adores you Come and dance with me 
Tony You’ve got a piece of hair out of place 
Pearl Have P [She takes a small glass out of her hag and looks 
at herself As she does so Tony steps behind her and kisses 
her neck] You fool, don’t do that Anyone might see us 



68 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


Tony I don’t care 

Pearl I do Arthur’s as jealous as cats’ meat 
Tony Arthur’s playing the pianola 
Pearl There’s nothing wrong with my hair 
Tony Of course there isn’t You’re perfectly divine 
to-night I don’t know what there is about you 
Pearl You’re a foolish creature, Tony 
Tony Let’s go in the garden 
Pearl No, they’ll be wondering where we are 
Tony Hang it all, it’s not so extraordinary to take a stroll 
instead of dancmg 
Pearl I don’t want to take a stroll 
Tony Pearl 
Pearl Yes^ 

[She looks at him For a moment they stare at one another 
tn silence A hot flame of passion leaps up suddenly 
between them 9 and envelops them 9 so that they forget 
everything but that they are man and woman The azr 
seems all at once heavy to breathe Pearl, like a btrd 
tn a net 9 struggles to escape > their voices sink , and 
unconsciously they speak m whispers 
Pearl Don’t be a fool, Tony 
Tony [Hoarsely ] Let’s go down to the tea-house 
Pearl No, I won’t 
Tony We shall be quite safe there. 

Pearl I daren’t It’s too risky 
Tony Oh, damn the risk! 

Pearl [Agitated] I can’t! 

Tony I’U go down there and wait 
Pearl [Breathlessly ] But — if they wonder where I am 
Tony They’ll think you’ve gone up to your room 
Pearl I won’t come, Tony 



ACT II 


OUR BETTERS 


69 


Tony Til wait for you 

[As he goes out, Arthur Fenwick corns m Pearl 
gives a s/ight start , but quickly recovers herself 

Fenwick Look here, Fm not going on pounding away at 
that wretched pianola unless you come and dance. Pearl 

Pearl [Exhausted] Fm tired, I don’t want to dance any 
more 

Fenwick Poor child, you look quite pale 

Pearl Do P I thought I’d put plenty of rouge on. Am I 
looking revolting^ 

Fenwick You always look adorable You’re wonderful I 
can’t think what you see in an old fellow like me 

Pearl You’re the youngest man I’ve ever known. 

Fenwick How well you know the thing to say to please 
me! 

[He is just going to take her m his arms , but instinctively 
she draws back 

Pearl Let’s play poker now, shall we^ 

Fenwick Not if you’re tired, darling 

Pearl I’m never too tired for that 

Fenwick You don’t know how I adore you It’s a privilege 
to be allowed to love you 

Pearl [Sure of herself again ] Oh, what nonsense! You’ll 
make me vain if you say things like that 

Fenwick You do love me a little, don’t yoiP I want your 
love so badly 

Pearl Why, I dote on you, you silly old thing 

[She takes his face m her hands and kisses him , avoids his 
arms that seek to encircle her, and goes towards the 
door 

Fenwick Where are you going^ 

Pearl Fm just going to my room to arrange my face 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


70 


Fenwick My God, how I love you, girhel There’s nothing 
in the world I wouldn’t do for you* 

Pearl Really? 

Fenwick Nothing 

Pearl Then ring for Pole and tell him to set out the card- 
table and bring the counters 

Fenwick And I was prepared to give you a sable coat or a 
diamond tiara 

Pearl I much prefer chinchilla and emeralds 

Fenwick [Taking her hand ] Must you really go and arrange 
your face? 

Pearl Really! 

Fenwick Be quick then I can hardly bear you out of my 
sight [He hsses her hand 

Pearl [Looking at him tenderly ] Dear Arthur 

[She goes out Fenwick rings the hell Then he goes on 
the terrace and calls out 

Fenwick Thornton, we’re going to play poker Get them 
to come along, will you? 

Clay [Outside ] Right-ho 1 

[Pole comes in 

Fenwick Oh, Pole, get the card-table ready 

Pole Very good, sir 

Fenwick And we shall want the counters Let’s have 
those mother-o’-pearl ones that I brought down last time 
I was here 

Pole Very good, sir 

[The Princess comes in Pole proceeds to bring a card - 
table into the centre of the room and unfolds it He gets 
a box of counters out of a drawer , and puts them on the 
table 

Fenwick Pearl has just gone to her room. She’ll be here in 
one minute 



ACT II OUR BETTERS 71 

Princess [Looking at the preparations ] This looks like more 
dissipation 

Fenwick We were going to have a little game of poker 1 
don’t think we ought to play very long, Pearl is looking 
terribly tired 

Princess I don’t wonder She’s so energetic 

Fenwick She does too much Just now when I came in she 
was quite white I’m really very uneasy about her You 
see, she never spares herself 

Princess Fortunately she’s extremely strong 

Fenwick She has a constitution of iron She’s a very 
wonderful woman It’s very seldom you meet a woman 
like Pearl She’s got a remarkable bram I’ve frequently 
discussed business with her, and I’ve been amazed at her 
clear grasp of complicated matters I owe a great deal to 
her And she’s good. Princess, she’s good She’s got a 
heart of gold 

Princess I’m sure she has 

Fenwick She’ll always do a good turn to anybody She’s 
the most generous, the most open-handed woman I’ve 
ever met 

[The Duchesse comes in as he says these words 

Duchesse Who is this 5 

Fenwick We were talking of our hostess 

Duchesse I see 

[She has her bag in her hand, when the others are not look ng 
she hides it behind a sofa 

Fenwick I have no hesitation in saying tnat Pearl is the 
most remarkable woman in England Why, she’s got 
half the Cabinet in her pocket She’s very powerful 

Duchesse I have often thought that if she’d lived in the 
reign of Charles II she would have been a duchess in her 
own light 



7 2 OUR SETTERS ACT II 

Fenwick [Innocently ] Maybe She would adorn any sphere 
She's got everything — tact, brains, energy, beauty 

Duchesse Virtue 

Fenwick If I were the British people, I'd make her Prime 
Minister 

Princess [Smiling ] You're an excellent friend, Mr 
Fenwick 

Fenwick Of course, you’ve heard of her hostel for young 
women alone in London? 

Duchesse [Sweetly ] Yes, there was a great deal about it m 
the papers, wasn’t there? 

Fenwick That’s a thing I’ve always admired in Pearl She 
has a thoroughly modern understanding of the value of 
advertisement 

Dlchesse Yes, she has, hasn’t she? 

Fenwick Well, believe me, she conceived the idea of that 
hostel, built it, endowed it, organised it, all on her own 
It cost twenty thousand pounds 

Duchesse But surely, Mr Fenwick, you paid the twenty 
thousand pounds Pearl hasn’t got sums like that to 
throw away on chanty 

Fenwick I gave the money, but the money isn’t the 
important thing The idea, the organisation, the success, 
are all due to Pearl 

Duchesse It has certainly been one of the best advertised of 
recent philanthropic schemes 

[Thornton Clay, Bessie, Bleane and Fleming 
come m 

Clay We're all dying to play poker. 

Fenwick The table is ready 

Bessie Where is Pearl? 

Fenwick She's gone to her room She’ll be back in a 
rrnnute 


[They gather round the table and sit down . 



ACT n 


OUR BETTERS 


73 


Bessie You’re going to play. Princess^ 

Princess Oh, I don’t think so. I’ll look on I’m going to 
bed in a minute 
Bessie Oh, you must play 

[The Princess smiles, shrugs her shoulders and ap- 
proaches the table 

Fenwick Leave a place for Pearl 
Duchesse You must leave one for Tony, too 
Clay What’s he doing^ 

Duchesse He’ll be here presently 

Fenwick Shall I give out the counters^ What would you 
like to play for* 

Princess Don’t let it be too high 

Duchesse How tiresome of you. Flora! I think I’m in luck 
to-night 

Fenwick We don’t want to ruin anyone Shilling antes 
Will that suit you^ 

Princess Very well 

Fenwick [To Clay ] The whites are a shilling, Thornton, 
reds two, and blues five bob Mr Harvey, you might 
count some out, will you^ 

Fleming Sure 

[The three of them start counting out the counters 
Duchesse Oh, how stupid of me, I haven’t got my bag 
Fenwick Never mind, we’ll trust you 

Duchesse Oh, I’d rather pay at once It saves so much 
bother Besides, I hate not having my bag 

Princess One always wants to powder one’s nose if one 
hasn’t got it 

Duchesse Bessie dear, I left it in Pearl’s new tea-house Do 
run and fetch it for me. 

Bessie Certainly 



OL R BETTERS 


ACT II 


74 


Bleane No, I’ll go 

Bessie You don’t know the way I can go through the 
bushes It’s only twenty yards You stop and count out 
the counters 

[She goes out 

Fenwick There’s five pounds here Will you take them. 
Princess^ 

Princess Thank you Here’s my money 
Dlchesse I’ll give you my fiver as soon as Bessie brings 
my bag 

Clay How on earth came you to leave it in the tea-house^ 
Duchesse I’m so careless I’m always leavmg my bag 
about 

Fleming Here’s another five pounds 
Princess What beautiful counters they arel 
Fenwick I’m glad you like them I gave them to Pearl 
They’ve got her initials on them 
Clay Let’s have a hand before Pearl comes Lowest deals 

[They all cut 

Fleming Table stakes, I suppose^ 

Fenwick Oh yes, it makes it a much better game 
Clay Your deal, Fenwick 
Fenwick Ante up. Princess 
Princess I beg your pardon 

[She pushes forward a counter Fenwick deals The 
others take up their cards 
Fenwick Two shillings to come in. 

Fleming I’m coming in 
Bleane I always come in 

Fenwick I oughtn’t to, but I shall all the same. Are you 
going to make good your ante. Princess^ 

Princess I may just as well, mayn’t It 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


75 


Fenwick That’s how I’ve made a fortune By throwing 
good money after bad Would you like a carcb 

Princess I’ll have three 

[Fenwick gives them to her 
Clay The Princess has got a pair of deuces 
Fleming I’ll have one 

[Fenwick gives it to him 
Bleane One never gets that straight, Harvey I’ll take five 
Fenwick That’s what I call a real sport 
Clay Nonsense It just means he can’t play 
Bleane It would be rather a sell for you if I go t a flush 
Clay It would, but you haven’t 

[Fenwick has given him cards and Bleane looks at them 
Bleane You’re quite right I haven’t 

[He flings them down Through the next speeches the 
business with the cards follows the dialogue 
Fenwick Don’t you want any cards, Duchesse^ 

Duchesse No, I’m out of it 

Clay I’ll have three I thought you were in luck. 

Duchesse Wait a minute You’ll be surprised. 

Fenwick Dealer takes two 
Clay Whobets^ 

Princess I’m out of it 
Clay I said it was a pair of deuces 
Fleming I’ll bet five shillings 
Clay I’ll take it and raise five shillings 
Fenwick I suppose I must risk my money What have I 
got to put down^ Ten shillings^ 

Fleming There’s five shillings, and I’ll raise you five 
shillings more. 

Clay No, I’ve had enough. 

Fenwick I’ll take you and raise you again. 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT II 


76 


Fleming Very well And once more* 

Fenwick I 5 11 see you 

[Bessie comes m The Duchesse has been watching for 
her Bessie is excessively disturbed 
Duchess*. Ah, there’s Bessie 
Fenwick [To Fleming ] What have you got^ 

Duchesse Did you find my ba g? 

Bessie [With a gasp ] No, it wasn’t there. 

Duchesse Oh, but I remember distinctly leaving it there 
I’ll go and look for it myself Mr Fenwick, will you 
come with me 

Bessie No, don’t — you can’t go into the tea-house 
Princess [Surprised ] Bessie, is anything the matter^ 

Bessie [In a strained voice ] The door of the tea-house is 
locked 

Duchesse Oh, it can’t be I saw Pearl and Tony go in there 
just now 

[Bessie suddenly hides her face and bursts into a flood of 
tears 

Princess [Starting to her feet ] Minnie, you devill What 
have you been doing^ 

Duchesse Don’t ask what I’ve been doing 

Fenwick You must be mistaken Pearl went up to her 
room 

Duchesse Go and look for her. 

[Fenwick is about to start from his chair The Princess 
puts her hand on his shoulders 

Princess Where are you going^ 

Duchesse I saw her 

[For a moment there is a pause 
Clay [In an embarrassed way ] Well, we’d better go on with 
our game, hadn’t we^ 



ACT II OUR BETTERS 77 

[The Princess and Bleane are bending over Bessie, 
trying to get her to control herself 
Fleming That was your money, Mr Fenwick 
Fenwick [Staring in front of him, with a red face and blood- 
shot eyes, under his breath ] The slut The slut 

[The Duchesse takes her bag from behind the cushion , , 
gets out the stick for her kps , and her mirror , and 
begins to paint them 

Clay You’d better deal, Fleming The Princess won’t play, 
I expect 

Duchesse Deal me cards I want to play 
Clay Bleane, come on We’d better go on with our game 
Take Bessie’s chips 

[Bleane comes forward Fleming deals the cards A 
stormy silence hangs over the party , broken only by the 
short speeches referring to the game, they play trying to 
relieve the tension They are all anxiously awaiting 
Pearl, afraid she will come , knowing she must , and 
dreading the moment , they are nervous and constrained 
Clay Your ante, Bleane 

[Bleane puts forward a counter The cards are dealt tn 
silence 

Clay I’m coming in 

[Fenwick looks at his cards , puts forward a couple of 
counters , but does not speak Fleming puts forward 
counters 

Fleming D’you want a card 5 
Bleane Three, please 
Clay Two 

Fenwick [With an effort over himself ] I’ll have three 

[Fleming deals them as they ask fust as he has given 
Fenwick his. Pearl comes in, followed by Tony 
Tony is smoking a cigarette 


D 



78 OUR BETTERS ACT II 

Pearl Oh, have you started already^ 

Fenwick [ Violently ] Where have you been^ 

Pearl P My head was aching a little and I went for a 
turn in the garden I found Tony composing a sonnet to 
the moon 

Fenwick You said you were going to your room* 

Pearl What are you talking abouP 

[She looks round , sees the Duchesse’s look of angry 
triumph , and gives a slight start 
Duchesse Once too often, my dear, once too often. 

[Pearl takes no notice She sees Bessie Bessie has 
been staring at her with miserable eyes 9 and now she 
bides her face Pearl realises that everything is 
discovered She turns coolly to Tony 
Pearl You damned fool, I told you it was too risky 

END OF THE SECOND ACT 



THE THIRD ACT 


The Scene zs the same as zn the last act , the morning-room at 
Kenton 

It zs next day, Sunday , about three in the afternoon , and the sun zs 
shining brightly 

The Princess, Thornton Clay and Fleming are sitting 
down Fleming lights another cigarette 

Princess Is it good for you to smoke so many cigarettes^ 

Fleming I shouldn’t think so 

Clay He must do something 

Princess Perhaps you can get up a game of tennis later on 

Fleming It’s very hot for tennis 

Clay Besides, who will play^ 

Princess You two could have a single 

Clay If we only had the Sunday papers it would be 
something 

Princess You can hardly expect them in a place like this 
I don’t suppose there are many trains on Sunday 

Clay I wonder if dinner is going to be as cheerful as 
luncheon was 

Fleming Did Pearl send any explanation for not appearing 
at luncheon? 

Princess I haven’t an idea 

Clay I asked the butler where she was He said she was 
lunching in bed I wish I’d thought of that 

Princess I’m afraid we were rather silent 

Clay Silent! I shall never forget that luncheon Minnie 
subdued — and silent Tony sulky — and silent Bessie 
79 



8o 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT m 


frightened — and silent Bleane embarrassed — and silent 
Fenwick fanous — and silent I tried to be pleasant and 
chatty It was like engaging the pyramids in small-talk 
Both of you behaved very badly You might have given 
me a little encouragement 

Fleming I was afraid of saying the wrong thing The 
Duchesse and Bessie looked as if they’d burst into tears 
on the smallest provocation 

Princess 1 was thinking of Pearl What a humiliation* 
What a horrible humiliation! 

F l e m ing What d’you think she’ll do now 5 
Clay That’s what I’m asking myself I have an idea that 
she won’t appear again till we’re all gone 
Princess I hope she won’t She’s always so sure of herself, 
I couldn’t bear to see her pale and mortified 
Clay She’s got plenty of courage 

Princess I know She may force herself to face us It 
would be a dreadful ordeal for all of us 
Fleming D’you think she’s feeling it very much 5 
Princess She wouldn’t be human if she weren’t I don’t 
suppose she slept any better last night than the rest of us 
Poor thing, she must be a wreck 
Fleming It was a terrible scene 

Princess I shall never forget it The things that Min me 
said I couldn’t have believed such language could issue 
from a woman’s throat Oh, it was horrible 

Clay It was startling I’ve never seen a woman so beside 
herself And there was no stopping her 

Fleming. And with Bessie there 

Princess She was crying so much, I doubt if she heard 

Clay I was thankful when Minnie had the hysterics and we 
were able to fuss over her and dab her face and slap her 
hands It was a very welcome diversion. 



ACTin 


OUR BETTERS 


Si 


Fleming Does she have attacks like that often^ 

Clay I know she did when the young man before Tony 
married an heiress I think she has one whenever there’s 
a crisis in the affairs of her heart 

Fleming For goodness’ sake, Thornton, don’t talk about it 
as if it were a joke 

Clay [, Surprised ] What’s the matter, Fleming^ 

Fleming I think it’s abominable to treat the whole thing so 
flippantly 

Clay Why, I was very sympathetic I wasn’t flippant 
Who got the sal volatile^ 5 I got the sal volatile 

Fleming [With a shrug of the shoulders ] I daresay my nerves 
are a bit on edge You see, before, I only thought 
things were rather queer It’s come as, well, as a shock to 
discover exactly what the relations are between all these 
people And what I can’t very easily get over is to 
realise that I’m the only member of the party who 
doesn’t take it as a matter of course 

Clay We shall never make a man of the world of you, 
Fleming 

Fleming I’m afraid that didn’t sound very polite. Princess 
I beg your pardon 

Princess I should have few friends if I demanded the 
standard that you do I’ve learned not to judge my 
neighbours 

Fleming Is it necessary to condone their vices? 

Princess You don’t understand It’s not entirely their 
fault It’s the life they lead They’ve got too much 
money and too few responsibilities English women in 
our station have duties that are part of their birthright, 
but we, strangers in a strange land, have nothing to do 
but enjoy ourselves 

Fleming Well, I thank God Bleane is a decent man, and 
he’ll take Bessie out of all this 



82 OUR BETTERS ACT III 

[The Dlchesse comes m Unlike the Princess, who is tr 
a summer frock , suitable for the country , the Duchesse 
wears a town dress and a hat 

Princess You’ve been changing your frock, Minnie 

Duchesse Yes I’m leaving this house in half an hour I’d 
have gone this morning, if I’d been able to get away I 
alwavs thought it a detestable hole, but now that I’ve 
discovered there are only two trains on Sunday, one at 
nine, and the other at half-past four, I have no words to 
express my opinion of it 

Clay Yet you have an extensive vocabulary, Minnie 

Duchesse I’ve been just as much a prisoner as if I’d been 
shut up with lock and key I’ve been forced to eat that 
woman’s food I thought every mouthful would choke 
me 

Princess Do keep calm, Minnie You know how bad it is 
for you to upset yourself 

Duchesse As soon as I found there wasn’t a tram I sent 
over to the garage and said I wanted to be taken to 
London at once Would you believe it, I couldn’t get a 
car 

Clay Whynot? 

Duchesse One of the cars went up to town early this 
morning, and the other is being overhauled There’s 
nothing but a luggage cart I couldn’t go to London in a 
iu ggage cart As it is I shall have to go to the station in it 
I shall look ridiculous 

Clay Have you ordered it? 

Duchesse Yes It’s to be round at the door in a few 
minutes 

Clay What on earth can Pearl have sent the car up to 
London £oP 

Duchesse To show her spite 

Princess That’s not like her. 



ACT III OUR BETTERS 83 

Duchesse My dear, she’s been my greatest friend for fifteen 
years I know her through and through, and I tell you 
that she hasn’t got a single redeeming quality And why 
does she want to have the car overhauled to-day^ 
When you’re giving a party the least you can do is to see 
that your cars are in running order 

Princess Oh, well, that was an accident You can’t blame 
her for that 

Duchesse I only have one thing to be thankful for, and that 
is that she has had the decency to keep to her room I 
will be just It shows at least that she has some sense of 
shame 

Clay You know, Minnie, Pearl has a good heart She 
didn’t mean to cause you pain 

Duchesse Are you trying to excuse her, Thornton? 

Clay No, I think her conduct is inexcusable 

Duchesse So do 1 I mean to have nothing more to do with 
her It’s a judgment on me I disliked her the first time I 
saw her One should always trust one’s first impressions 
Now my eyes are opened I will never speak to her 
again I will cut her dead I hope you’ll tell her that, 
Thornton* 

Clay If that’s a commission you’re giving me, it’s not a 
very pleasant one 

Princess Will you let me have a word or two with Minnie^ 

Clay Why, of course Come along, Fleming 

[Clay and Fleming Harvey go mto the garden 

Duchesse My dear, if you’re going to ask me to turn the 
other cheek, don’t Because I’m not going to I’m 
going to do all I can to revenge myself on that woman 
I’m going to expose her I’m going to tell everyone how 
she’s treated me When I was her guest 

Princess You must take care what you say for your own 
sake, Minnie 



ACT III 


84 OUR BETTERS 

Duchesse I know quite enough about her to make her 
position in London impossible I’m going to rum her 

Princess What about Tony 5 

Duchesse Oh, I’ve finished with him Ah! Fm not the 
kind of woman to stand that sort of treatment I hope 
he’ll end in the gutter 

Princess Don’t you care for him any more 5 

Duchesse My dear, if he was starving, and went down on 
his bended knees to me for a piece of bread, I wouldn’t 
give it to him He revolts me 

Princess Well, Fm very glad It distressed me to see you 
on those terms with a boy like that You’re well rid of 
him 

Duchesse My dear, you needn’t tell me that He’s a 
thorough wrong ’un, and that’s all there is about it He 
hasn’t even had the decency to try and excuse himself 
He hasn’t even made an attempt to see me 

Princess [Gives her a quick look ] After all, he never really 
cared for you Anyone could see that 

Duchesse [Her voice breaking ] Oh, don’t say that. Flora I 
couldn’t bear it He loved me Until that woman came 
between us I know he loved me He couldn’t help 
loving me I did everything in the world for him [She 
bursts into tears ] 

Princess Minnie My dear, don’t give way You know 
what a worthless creature he is Haven’t you any self- 
respect 5 

Duchesse He’s the only man I’ve ever loved I could 
hardiy bear him out of my sight What shall I do without 
him 5 

Princess lake care, here he is 

[Tony comes tn He is startled at seeing the Duchesse, 
She turns away and hurriedly dries her tears * 



ACT 111 OUR BETTERS 8$ 

Tony Oh, I beg your pardon I didn’t know anyone was 
here I was looking for some cigarettes 

[He stands there awkwardly , not knowing whether to go or 
stay The Princess looks at him reflectively There is 
a moment 9 s silence Then she shrugs her shoulders and 
goes out He looks at the Duchesse who stands with 
her hack to him He hesitates a moment , th$n y almost 
on the tips of his toes 9 walks over to the cigarettes , 
fills his case 9 takes another look at the Duchesse, and 
is m the act of tip-toeing out of the room when she stops 
him with her question 

Duchesse Where are you going? 

Tony Nowhere in particular 

Duchesse Then you’d better stay here 

Tony I thought you wished to be alone 

Duchesse Is that why you’ve kept away from me all day? 

[He sinks sulkily into an armchair The Duchesse 
finally turns round and faces him 

Duchesse Haven’t you got anything to say for yourself at 
all? 

Tony What’s the good of talking * 1 

Duchesse You might at least say you’re sorry for the pain 
you’ve caused me If you’d had any affection for me you 
wouldn’t have done all you could to avoid me 

Tony I knew you’d only make a scene 

Duchesse Good heavens, you surely don’t expect me not 
to make a scene 

Tony The whole thing’s very unfortunate 

Duchesse Ha* Unfortunate You break my heart and then 
you say it’s unfortunate 

Tony I didn’t mean that I meant it was unfortunate that 
you caught us out 



ACT III 


86 OUR BETTERS 

Duchesse Oh, hold your stupid tongue Every word you 
say is more unfortunate than the last 

Tony It’s because I knew you’d take offence at everything 
I said that I thought the best thing I could do was to keep 
out of the way 

Duchesse You’re heartless, heartless If you’d had any 
decent feeling you couldn’t have eaten the lunch you did 
But you munched away, munched, munched, munched, 
till I could have killed you 

Tony Well, I was hungry 

Duchesse You oughtn’t to have been hungry* 

Tony What are you going to do about it? 

Duchesse About your appetite? Pray to God your nest 
mouthful chokes you 

Tony No, about the other 

Dl chesse I’m going to leave this house this afternoon 

Tony D’you want me to come, too? 

Duchesse What d’you suppose it matters to me whether 
you go or stay? 

Tony If you go I shall have to go, too 

Duchesse You ought to start soon then It’s four miles to 
the station I shall be obliged if you will not get in the 
same carnage as me 

Tony I’m not going to walk They can run me down in a 
car 

Duchesse There’s nothing but a luggage cart, and I’m 
going in that 

Tony Isn’t there room for me? 

Duchesse No 

Tony When d’you want me to move out of my fiat? 

Duchesse What has that got to do with me? 

Tony You know very well that I can’t pay ttie rent 



ACT III 


OUR BETTERS 


87 


Duchesse That’s your look-out 

Tony I shall go to the colonies 

Duchesse That’s the very best thing you can do I hope 
you’ll have to break stones, and dig, and paint — with 
lead paint I hope you’re miserable 

Tony Oh, well, it’ll have its compensations 

Duchesse Such as ? 

Tony I shall be my own master I was about fed up with 
this, I can tell you 

Duchesse Yes, you can say that now 

Tony D’you think it was all jam, never being able to call 
my soul my own? I was sick to death of it 

Duchesse You cadi 

Tony Well, you may just as well know the truth 

Duchesse D’you mean to say you never cared for me 5 Not 
even at the beginning^ 

[He shrugs his shoulders , hut does not answer She speaks 
the next phrases m little gasps gradually weakening as 
her emotion overcomes her He stands before her in 
sulky silence 

Duchesse Tony, I’ve done everything in the world for you 
I’ve been kke a mother to you How can you be so 
ungrateful You haven’t got any heart If you had you’d 
have asked me to forgive you You’d have made 
some attempt to . . Don’t you want me to forgive 
you^ 

Tony What d’you mean by that? 

Duchesse If you’d only asked me, if you’d only shown you 
were sorry. I’d have been angry with you, I wouldn’t 
have spoken to you for a week, but I’d have forgiven 
you — I’d have forgiven you, Tony But you never gave 
me a chance It’s cruel of you, cruell 

Tony Well, anyhow, it’s too late now 



88 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT III 


Duchesse Do you want it to be too late^ 

Tony It’s no good grousing about the past The thing’s 
over now 

Duchesse Aren’t you sorry^ 

Tony I don’t know I suppose I am in a way I don’t want 
to make you unhappy 

Duchesse If you wanted to be unfaithful to me, why 
didn’t you prevent me from finding out^ You didn’t 
even trouble to take a little precaution 
Tony I was a damned fool, I know that 
Duchesse Are you in love with that woman? 

Tony No 

Duchesse Then why did yoiP Oh, Tony, how could you^ 
Tony If one felt about things at night as one does next 
morning, life would be a dashed sight easier 
Duchesse If I said to you. Let’s let bygones be bygones and 
start afresh, what would you say, Tony^ 

[She looks away He r >sts his eyes on her reflectively 
Tony We’ve made a break now We’d better leave it at 
that I shall go out to the colonies 
Duchesse Tony, you don’t mean that seriously You could 
never stand it You know, you’re not strong You’ll 
only die 

Tony Oh, well, one can only die once* 

Duchesse I’m sorry for all I said just now, Tony I didn’t 
mean it 

Tony It doesn’t matter 
Duchesse I can’t live without you, Tony 
Tony I’ve made up my mind It’s no good talking 
Duchesse I’m sorry I was horrid to you, Tony I’ll never 
be again Won’t you forget it? Oh, Tony, won’t you 
forgive me^ I’ll do anything in the world for you if only 
you won’t leave me 



ACT Hi OUR BETTERS 8c 

Tony It’s a rotten position I’m in I must think of the 
future 

Duchesse Oh, but Tony, I’ll make it all right for you 

Tony It’s very kind of you, but it’s not good enough Let’s 
part good friends, Minnie If I’ve got to walk to the 
station, it’s about time I was starting [Hi? holds out hu 
hand to her ] 

Duchesse D’you mean to say it’s good-bye 5 Good-bye for 
ever 5 Oh, how can you be so cruel 1 

Tony When one’s made up one’s mind to do a thing, it’s 
best to do it at once 

Duchesse Oh, I can’t bear it I can’t bear it [She begins tc 
cry ] Oh, what a fool I was! I ought to have pretended 
not to see anything I wish I’d never known Then you 
wouldn’t have thought of leaving me 

Tony Come, my dear, pull yourself together You’ll get 
over it 

Duchesse [Desperately ] Tony, if you want to marry me — 
I’m willing to marry you [A pause 

Tony I should be just as dependent on you D’you think 
it would be jolly for me having to come to you for every 
five pounds I wanted 5 

Duchesse I’ll settle something on you so that you’ll be 
independent A thousand a year Will that do 5 

Tony You are a good sort, Minnie [He goes over and sits 
down bestde her ] 

Duchesse You will be kind to me, won’t you 5 

Tony Rather! And look here, you needn’t give me that 
two-seater I shall be able to drive the Rolls-Royce 

Duchesse You didn’t want to go to the colonies, did you 5 

Tony Not much 

Duchesse Oh, Tony, I do love you so 

Tony That’s right 



ACT III 


90 OUR BETTERS 

Duchesse We won’t sta^ another minute in this house 
Ring the bell, vill you? You’ll come with me in the 
* u gg a g e catt^ 

Tony [ Touching the hell ] I much prefer that to walking 
Duchesse It’s monstrous that there shouldn’t be a motor to 
take luggage to the station It’s a most uncomfortable 
house to stav in 

Tony Oh, beastly D’you know that I didn’t have a bath- 
room attached to my bedroom 5 [Pole comes in 

Duchesse Is the luggage cart ready, Pole 5 
Pole I’ll enquire, your grace 

Duchesse My maid is to follow in the mormng with the 
luggage Mr Paxton will come with me [To Tony ] 
What about your things 5 

Tony Oh, they’ll be all right I brought my man with me 
Pole Her ladyship is just coming downstairs, your grace 
Duchesse Oh, is she 5 Thank you, that’ll do, Pole 
Pole Very good, your grace 

[He goes out As soon as he closes the door behind him the 
Duchesse springs to her feet 

Duchesse I won’t see her Tony, see if Thornton is on the 
terrace 

Tony All right [He goes to the French window ] Yes I’ll call 
him, shall I 5 Clay, come here a minute, will you 5 

[He goes out Thornton Clay comes in, followed 
immediately by the Princess and Fleming 

Duchesse Thornton, I’m told Pearl is coming downstairs 
Clay At last 

Duchesse I won’t see her Nothing will induce me to see 
her 

Princess My dear, what is to be done 5 We can’t make her 
remain upstairs in her own house 



ACT III 


OUR BETTERS 


9 l 

Duchesse No, but Thornton can speak to her She’s 
evidently ashamed of herself I only ask one thing, that 
she should keep out of the way till Fm gone 

Clay Flldomybest 

Duchesse Fm going to walk up and down till the luggage 
cart is ready I haven’t taken my exercise to-day 

[She goes out 

Clay If Pearl is m a temper that’s not a very pleasant 
message to give her 

Princess You won’t find her in a temper If she’s dread- 
fully upset, tell her what Minnie says gently 

Fleming Here is Bessie [She comes m ] It appears that 
Pearl is just coming downstairs 

Bessie Is she ? 

Princess Have you seen her this morning, Bessie^ 

Bessie No She sent her maid to ask me to go to her, but 
I had a headache and couldn’t 

[Thej look at her curiously She is inclined to he abrupt and 
silent It may be imagined that she has made up her 
mind to some course, but what that is the others cannot 
tell Fleming goes over and sits beside her 

Fleming I’m thinking of going back to America next 
Saturday, Bessie 

Bessie Dear Fleming, I shall be sorry to lose you 

Fleming I expect you’ll be too busy to think about me 
You’ll have to see all kinds of people, and then there’s 
your trousseau to get 

Bessie I wish you could come over to Pans with me. 
Princess, and help me with it 

Princess P [She gets an inkling of what Bessie means ] Of 
course, if I could be of any help to you, dear child 
[She takes Bessie’s band and gives her a fond smile Bessie 



9 * 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT III 


turns away to hide a tear that for a moment obscures her eyes ] 
Perhaps it’s a very good idea We must talk about it 
i Pearl comes m She is perfectly cool and collected 
radiant m a wonderful, audacious gown , she is looking 
her best and knows it There is nothing m her manner to 
indicate the smallest recollection of the episode that took 
place on the preceding evening 

Pearl [Brightly ] Good-morning 

Clay Good-afternoon 

Pearl I knew everyone would abuse me for coming down 
so late It was such a lovely day I thought it was a pity to 
get up 

Clay Don’t be paradoxical. Pearl, it’s too hot 

Pe*rl The sun streamed into my room, and I said, It’s a sin 
not to get up on a morning like this And the more I said 
I ought to get up, the more delightful I found it to he in 
bed How is your head, Bessie^ 

Bessie Oh, it’s better, thank you 

Pearl I was sorry to hear you weren’t feelmg up to the 
mark 

Bessie I didn’t sleep very well 

Pearl What have you done with your young man? 

Bessie Harry^ He’s writing letters 

Pearl Spreading the glad tidings, I suppose You ought 
to write to his mother, Bessie It would be a graceful 
attention A charming, frank little letter, the sort of 
thing one would expect an ingenue to write Straight 
from the heart 

Clay I’m sure you’d love to write it yourself. Pearl. 

Pearl And we must think about sending an announcement 
to the Morning Post 

Fleming You think of everything. Pearl 

Pearl I take my duties as Bessie’s chaperon very seriously 



ACT III OUR GUTTERS 93 

I’ve already got a brilliant idea for the gown I’m going to 
wear at the wedding 
Fleming Geel 

Pearl My dear Fleming, don’t say Gee, it’s so American. 
Say By Jove 

Fleming I couldn’t without laughing 
Pearl Laffing Why can’t you say laughing^ 

Fleming I don’t want to 

Pearl How obstinate you are Of course, now that 
Bessie is going to marry an Englishman she’ll have to 
take lessons I know an excellent woman She’s taught 
all the American peeresses 
Fleming You surprise me 

Pearl She’s got a wonderful method She makes you read 
aloud And she has long lists of words that you have to 
repeat twenty times a day — half instead of haf, and barth 
instead of bath, and carnt instead of can’t 
Fleming By Jove instead of Gee^ 

Pearl Peeresses don’t say By Jove, Fleming She teaches 
them to say Good heavens instead of Mercy 

Fleming Does she make money by it ? 

Pearl Pots She’s a lovely woman Eleo Dorset had an 
accent that you could cut with a knife when she first came 
over, and in three months she hadn’t got any more than 
I have 

Bessie [Getting up To Fleming J D’you think it’s too hot 
for a turn in the garden^ 

Fleming Why, no 

Bessie Shall we go then> [They go out together 

Pearl What’s the matter with Bessie^ 5 She must have 
swallowed a poker last night No wonder she couldn’t 
sleep It’s enough to give anyone indigestion 
Clay You know that Minnie is going this afternoon. Pearl? 



ACT III 


94 OUR BETTERS 

Pearl Yes, so 1 heard It’s such a bore there are no cars 
to take her to the station She’ll have to go in tne 
luggage cart 

Clay She doesn’t wish to see >ou 

Pearl Oh, but I wish to see her 

Clay I daresay 

Pearl I must see her 

Clay She asked me to tell you that she only wished you to 
do one thing, and that is to keep out of the way till she’s 
gone 

Pearl Then you can go and tell her that unless she sees me 
she shan’t have the luggage cart 

Qay Pearl! 

Pearl That’s my ultimatum. 

Clay Can you see me taking a message like that to the 
Duchesse^ 

Pearl It’s four miles to the station, and there’s not a scrap 
of shade all the way 

Clay After all, it’s not a very unreasonable request she’s 
making 

Pearl If she wants the luggage cart she must come and say 
good-bye to me like a lady 

Clay [To the Princess ] What am I to do^ We used up all 
the sal volatile last night 

Princess I’ll tell her if you like D’you really insist on 
seeing her. Pearl? 

Pearl Yes, it’s very important [The Princess goes out 
Pearl watches her go with a smile ] I’m afraid Flora is 
shocked She shouldn’t know such people 

Clay Really, Pead, your behaviour is monstrous 

Pearl Never mind about my behaviour Tell me how 
luncheon went off. 



ACT III 


OUR BETTERS 


95 

Cl vjt My dear, it was like a gathering of relations who hate 
one another, after the funeral of a rich aunt who’s left all 
her money to charity 

Pearl It must have been priceless I’d have given anything 
to be there 

Clay Why weren’t you? 

Pearl Oh, I knew there’d be scenes, and I’m never at my 
best in a scene before luncheon One of the things I’ve 
learnt from the war is that a general should choose his 
own time for a battle 

Clay Minnie moved heaven and earth to get away this 
morning 

Pearl I knew she couldn’t I knew none of them could go 
till the afternoon 

Clay The tram service is atrocious 

Pearl George says that is one of the advantages of the 
place It keeps it rural There’s one at nine and another 
at half-past four I knew that not even the most violent 
disturbances would get people up at eight who never by 
any chance have breakfast till ten As soon as I awoke I 
took the necessary steps 

Clay [Interrupting ] You slept? 

Pearl Oh yes, I slept beautifully There’s nothing like a 
little excitement to give me a good night 

Clay Well, you certainly had some excitement I’ve rarely 
witnessed such a terrific scene 

Pearl I sent out to the garage and gave instructions that 
the old Rolls-Royce was to be taken down at once and 
the other was to go to London 

Clay What for* 

Pearl Never mind You’ll know presently Then I did a 
little telephoning 

Clay Why were you so anxious to prevent anybody from 
leaving the house* 



ACT III 


96 OUR BETTERS 

Pe\rl I couldn’t have persuaded myself that my party was 
a success if half my guests had left me on Sunday 
morning I thought they might change their minds by 
the afternoon 

Ciay If that’s your only reason, I don’t think it’s a very 
good one 

Pearl It isn’t I will be frank with you, Thornton I can 
imagine that a very amusing story might be made out of 
this episode I never mind scandal, but I don’t expose 
myself to ridicule if I can help it 

Clay My dear Pearl, surely you can trust the discretion of 
your guests Who do you thmk will give it away^ 

Pe\rl You 

Clay P My dear Pearl, I give you my word of honour 

Pearl [Calmly ] My dear Thornton, I don’t care two- 
pence about your word of honour You’re a pro- 
fessional entertainer, and you’ll sacrifice everything to a 
good story Why, don’t you remember that killing 
story about your father’s deaths You dined out a 
whole season on it 

Clay Well, it was a perfectly killing story No one would 
have enjoyed it more than my poor old father 

Pearl I’m not going to risk anything, Thornton I thmk 
it’s much better there should be no story to tell 

Clay No one can move the clock backwards. Pearl I 
couldn’t help thinking at luncheon that there were the 
elements of a very good story indeed* 

Pearl And you’ll tell it, Thornton. Then I shall say 
My dear, does it sound probable^ They all stayed quite 
happily till Monday morning, Sturrey and the Aldingtons 
dined on the Sunday night, and we had a very merry 
evening Besides, I was lunching with Minnie only two 
days afterwards And I shall say Poor Thornton, he is 
such a liar, isn’t he> 



iCT III 


OUR BETTERS 


97 

Zlay I confess that if you are reconciled with Minnie it will 
take a great deal of the point away from my story 
What about Arthur Fenwick^ 

Pearl He’s a sensualist, and the sensual are always 
sentimental 

Clay He scared me dreadfully at luncheon He was eating 
a dressed crab, and his face grew every minute more 
purple I was expecting him to have an apoplectic fit 

Pearl It’s not an unpleasant death, you know, Thornton, 
to have a stroke while you’re eating your favourite dish 

Clay You know, there are no excuses for you. Pearl 

Pearl Human nature excuses so much, Thornton 

Clay You really might have left Tony alone This habit 
you have of snitching has got you into trouble before 

Pearl People are so selfish It just happens that I find no 
man so desirable as one that a friend of mine is in love 
with I make allowances for the idiosyncrasies of 
my friends Why shouldn’t they make allowances for 
mine^ 

[The Duchesse comes m, erect and haughty , with the air of 
Boadicea facing the Roman legions Pearl turns to her 
with an ingratiating smile 

Pearl Ah, Minnie 

Duchesse Pm told the only way I can leave this house is by 
submitting to the odious necessity of seeing you 

Pearl I wish you wouldn’t go, Minnie Lord Sturrey is 
coming over to dinner to-night, and so are the Arlmg- 
tons I always take a lot of trouble to get the right 
people together, and I hate it when anybody fails me at 
the last minute 

Duchesse D’you think anything would have induced me to 
stay so long if there’d been any possibility of getting 
away^ 



ACT III 


98 OUR BETTERS 

Pearl It wouldn’t have been nice to go without saying 
good-bye to me 

Duchesse Don’t talk nonsense, Pearl 

Pearl D’you know that you behaved very badly last night, 
and I ought to be extremely angry with you^ 

Dlchesse P Thornton, the woman’s as mad as a hatter 

Pearl You really oughtn’t to have made a scene before 
Harry Bleane And, you know, to tell Arthur wasn’t 
playing the game If you wanted to tell anyone, why 
didn’t you tell George- 5 

Duchesse In the first place, he wasn’t here He never is 

Pearl I know He says that now society has taken to 
coming down to the country for week-ends he prefers 
London 

Duchesse I’ll never forgive you Never Never Never 
You’d got Arthur Fenwick Why weren’t you satisfied 
with him? If you wanted to have an affair with anyone, 
why didn’t you take Thornton 5 He’s almost the only one 
of your friends with whom you haven’t The omission 
is becoming almost marked 

Pearl Thornton never makes love to me except when 
other people are looking He can be very passionate 
in the front seat of my box at the opera 

Clay This conversation is growing excessively personal 
I’ll leave you [He goes out 

Pearl I’m sorry I had to insist on your seeing me, but I had 
something quite important to say to you 

Duchesse Before you go any further. Pearl, I wish to tell 
you that I’m going to marry Tony 

Pearl [Aghast ] Minnie! Oh, my dear, you’re not doing it 
to spite me? You know, honestly, he doesn’t interest me 
in the slightest Oh, Minnie, do think carefully, 

Duchesse It’s the only way I can keep him. 



ACT in 


OUR .BETTERS 


99 


Pearl D’you thick you’ll be happy^ 

Duchesse What should you care if I’m happy^ 

Pearl Of course I care D’you think it’s wise^ You’re 
giving yourself into his hands Oh, my dear, how can 
you risk lt^ 

Duchesse He said he was going out to the colonies I love 
him I believe you’re really distressed How 
strange you are. Pearl! Perhaps it’s the best thing for 
me He may settle down I was very lonely sometimes, 
you know Sometimes, when I had the blues, I almost 
wished I’d never left home 

Pearl And I’ve been moving heaven and earth to get him a 
job I’ve been on the telephone this morning to all the 
Cabinet Ministers I know, and at last I’ve done it That’s 
what I wanted to tell you I thought you’d be so 
pleased I suppose now he won’t want it 
Duchesse Oh, I’m sure he will He’s very proud, you 
know That’s one of the things I liked in him He had to 
be dependent on me, and that’s partly why he always 
wanted to marry me 
Pearl Of course, you’ll keep your title 
Duchesse Oh yes, I shall do that 

Pearl [Going towards her as if to kiss her ] Well, darling, you 
have mv very, very best wishes 
Duchesse [Drawing back ] I’m not going to forgive you. 
Pearl 

Pearl But you’ve forgiven Tony 
Duchesse I don’t blame him He was led away 
Pearl Come, Minnie, don’t be spiteful You might let by- 
gones be bygones 

Duchesse Nothing will induce me to stay in this house 
another night 

Pearl It’s a very slow train, and you’ll have to go without 
your tea. 



IOO 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT III 


Duchesse I don’t care 

Pearl You won’t arrive in London till half-past eight, and 
jou’ll have to dine in a restaurant 
Duchesse I don’t care 

Pearl You’ll be grubby and hot Tony will be hungry and 
out of temper And you’ll look your age 
Duchesse You promised me the luggage cart 

Pearl [With a sigh ] You shall have it, but you’ll have to sit 
on the floor, because it hasn’t got any seats 

Duchesse Pearl, it’s not going to break down on the way 
to the station^ 

Pearl Oh, no How can you suspect me of playing a trick 
like that on you^ [With a tmge of regret ] It never 
occurred to me 

[Thornton Clay comes in 
Clay Pearl, I thought you’d like to know that Fenwick is 
coming to say good-bye to you 

Duchesse I’ll go and tell Tony about the job you’ve got 
him By the way, what is it^ 

Pearl Oh, it’s something in the Education Office 
Duchesse How very nice What do they do there^ 

Pearl Nothing But it’ll keep him busy from ten to four 
[The Duchesse goes out ] 

Pearl She’s going to marry him 
Clay I know 

Pearl I’m a wonderful matchmaker First Bessie and 
Harry Bleane, and now Mi nn ie and Tony Paxton I 
shall have to find someone for you, Thornton 

Clay How on earth did you manage to appease her? 

Pearl I reasoned with her After all, she should be glad 
the boy has sown his wild oats before he marries And 
besides, if he were her husband, of course she wouldn’t 



ACT III 


OUR BETTERS 


IOI 


expect fidelity from him, it seems unnatural to expect it 
when he isn’t 

Clay But she’s going all the same 

Pearl I’ve got a quarter of an hour yet Give me your 
handkerchief, will you^ 

Clay [Handing it to her ] You’re not going to burst into 
tears^ 

Pearl [She rubs her cheeks violently ] I thought I ought to 
look a little wan and pale when Arthur comes in 

Clay You’ll never love me, Pearl You tell me all your 
secrets 

Pearl Shall I tell you what to do about it^ Take the 
advice I give to Americans who come over to London 
and want to see the Tower say you’ve been, and don’t go 

Clay D’you think you can bring Arthur rounds 

Pearl I’m sure I could if he loved me 

Clay My dear, he dotes on you 

Pearl Don’t be a fool, Thornton He loves his love for 
me That’s quite a different thing I’ve only got one 
chance He sees himself as the man of iron, I’m going to 
play the dear little thing racket 

Clay You’re a most unscrupulous woman. Pearl 

Pearl Not more than most Please go I think he ought to 
find me alone 

[Clay goes out Pearl seats herself m a pensive attitude 
and looks down at the carpet, m her hand she holds 
dejectedly an open volume of poetry "Presently Arthur 
Fenwick comes in She pretends not to see him He is 
the strongman , battered but not beaten , struggling with 
the emotion which he tries to master 

Fenwick Pearl! 

Pearl [With a jump ] Oh, how you startled me I didn’t 
hear you come in 



102 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT in 


Fenwick I daresay you’re surprised to see me I thought it 
was necessary that we should have a short conversation 
before I left this house 

Pearl [Looking away ] I’m glad to see you once more 
Fenwick You understand that everything is over between 
us 

Pearl If you’ve made up your mind, there’s nothing for 
me to say I know that nothing can move you when 
you’ve once done that 

Fenwick [Drawing himselj up a httle ] No That has always 
been part of my power 
Pearl I wouldn’t have you otherwise 
Fenwick I don’t want to part from you in anger, Pearl 
Last night I could have thrashed you within an inch of 
your life 

Pearl Why didn’t you^ D’you think I’d have minded that 
from the man I loved^ 

Fenwick You know I could never hit a woman 
Pearl I thought of you all through the long hours of the 
night, Arthur 

Fenwick I never slept a wink 

Pearl One would never think it You must be made of 
iron 

Fenwick I think I am sometimes 
Pearl Am I very pale! 

Fenwick A little 
Pearl I feel a perfect wreck 

Fenwick You must go and he down It’s no good making 
yourself ill 

Pearl Oh, don’t bother about me, Arthur 
Fenwick I’ve bothered about you so long. It’s difficult for 
me to get out of the habit all at once 
Pearl Every word you say stabs me to the heart* 



ACT in OUR BETTERS IO$ 

Fenwick Fll get done quickly with what I had to tell you 
and then go It’s merely this Of course, I shall continue 
the allowance I’ve always made you 

Pearl Oh, I couldn’t take it I couldn’t take it 

Fenwick You must be reasonable. Pearl This is a matter 
of business 

Pearl It’s a question I refuse to discuss Nothing would 
have induced me to accept your help if I hadn’t loved 
you Now that there can be nothing more between us — 
no, no, the thought outrages me 

Fenwick I was afraid that you’d take up that attitude 
Remember that you’ve only got eight thousand a year of 
your own You can’t live on that 

Pearl I can starve 

Fenwick I must insist. Pearl, for my own sake You’ve 
adopted a style of living which you would never have 
done if you hadn’t had me at the back of you I’m 
morally responsible, and I must meet my obligations 

Pearl We can only be friends in future, Arthur 

Fenwick I haven’t often asked you to do anything for me. 
Pearl 

Pearl I shall return your presents Let me give you my 
pearl necklace at once 

Fenwick Girlie, you wouldn’t do that 

Pearl [ 'Pretending to try and take the necklace off] I can’t 
undo the clasp Please help me 

[She goes up to him and turns her back so that he may get 
at it 

Fenwick I won’t I won’t. 

Pearl Fll tear it off my neck 

Fenwick Pearl, you break my heart Do you care for me so 
little that you can’t bear to wear the trifling presents i 
gave you 



104 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT III 


Pearl If you talk to me like that I shall cry Don ’t you see 
that Pm trying to keep my self-controP 
Fenwick This is dreadful This is even more painful than 
I anticipated 

Pearl You see, strength is easy to you Pm weak That’s 
why I put myself in your hands I felt your power 
instinctively 

Fenwick I know, I know, and it was because I felt you 
needed me that I loved you I wanted to shelter you 
from the storms and buffets of the world 
Pearl Why didn’t you save me from myself, Arthur^ 
Fenwick When I look at your poor, pale little face I 
wonder what you’ll do without me, girlie 
Pearl [Her voice breaking ] It’ll be very hard I’ve grown so 
used to depending on you Whenever anything has 
gone wrong, I’ve come to you and you’ve put it right I 
was beginning to think there was nothing you couldn’t 
do 

Fenwick I’ve always welcomed obstacles I like something 
to surmount It excites me 

Pearl You seemed to take all my strength from me I felt 
strangely weak beside you 

Fenwick It wasn’t necessary that we should both be 
strong I loved you because you were weak I liked you 
to come to me in all your troubles It made me feel so 
good to be able to put everything right for you 
Pearl You’ve always been able to do the impossible 
Fenwick [Impressively] I have never found anything 
impossible 

Pearl [Deeply moved] Except to forgive 
Fenwtck Ah, I see you know me I never forget I never 
forgive 

Pearl I suppose that’s why people feel there’s something 
strangely Napoleonic about you 



ACT III 


OUR BETTERS 


105 


Fenwick Maybe And yet — though you’re only a woman, 
you’ve broken me. Pearl, you’ve broken me 

Pearl Oh no, don’t say that I couldn’t bear that I want 
you to go on bemg strong and ruthless 

Fenwick Something has gone out of my life for ever 1 
almost think you’ve broken my heart I was so proud of 
you I took so much pleasure in your success Why, 
whenever I saw your name in the society columns of the 
papers it used to give me a thnll of satisfaction What’s 
going to become of you now, girlie^ What’s going to 
become of you now ? 

Pearl I don’t know, I don’t care 

Fenwick This fellow, does he care for you? Will he make 
you happy^ 

Pearl Tony^ He’s going to marry the Duchesse [Fen- 
wick represses a start ] I shall never see him again 

Fenwick Then if I leave you, you’ll have nobody but your 
husband* 

Pearl Nobody 

Fenwick You’ll be terribly lonely, girlie 

Pearl You will think of me sometimes, Arthur, won’t 
you^ 

Fenwick I shall never forget you, girlie I shall never 
forget how you used to leave your fine house in Mayfair 
and come and lunch with me down town 

Pearl You used to give me such delicious things to eat 

Fenwick It was a treat to see you in your beautiful clothes 
sharing a steak with me and a bottle of beer I can order 
a steak. Pearl, can’t P 

Pearl And d’you remember those delicious little onions 
that we used to have^ [She seems to taste them ] M 
M M It makes my mouth water to think of 
them 



io6 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT III 


Fenwick There are few women who enjoy food as much as 
you do. Pearl 

Pearl D’you know, nest time vou dined with me, I’d made 
up my mind to give you an entirely English dinner 
Scotch broth, herrings, mixed grill, saddle of lamb, and 
then enormous marrow bones 

[Fenwick can hardly hear the thought , hts face grows red, 
hts eyes bulge , and he gasps 

Fenwick Oh, girlie! [With utter abandonment ] Let’s have 
that dinner [He seizes her in his arms and kisses her ] I 
can’t leave you You need me too much 

Pearl Arthur, Arthur, can you forgive me? 

Fenwick To err is human, to forgive divine 

Pearl Oh, how like you that is! 

Fenwick If you must deceive me, don’t let me ever find 
out I love you too much 

Pearl I won’t, Arthur, I promise you I won’t 

Fenwick Come and sit on the sofa and let me look at you 
I seem to see you for the first time 

Pearl You know, you wouldn’t have liked the walk to the 
station It’s four miles m the sun You’re a vain old 
thing, and your boots are always a little too small for 
you 

[Bessie corns m She stops as she sees Pearl and 
Fenwick sitting hand in hand 

Pearl Are you going out, Bessie^ 

Bessie As soon as Harry has finished his letters, we’re 
going for a walk 

Pearl [To Fenwick ] You mustn’t squeeze my hand in 
Bessie’s presence, Arthur 

Fenwick You’re a very lucky girl, Bessie, to have a sister 
like Pearl She’s the most wonderful woman in the 
world 



ACT III 


OUR BETTERS 


107 


Pearl You’re talking nonsense, Arthur Go and put some 
flannels on It makes me quite hot to look at you m that 
suit We’ll try and get up a little tennis after tea 

Fenwick Now, you mustn’t tire yourself. Pearl Remember 
those white cheeks of yours 

Pearl [With a charming look at him ] Oh, I shall soon get 
my colour back now 

[She gives him her hand to kiss and be goes out Pearl 
takes a little mirror out of her bag and looks at 
herself reflectively 

Pearl Men are very trivial, foolish creatures They have 
kind hearts But their heads Oh dear, oh dear, it’s 
lamentable And they’re so vain, poor dears, they’re 
so vain 

Bessie Pearl, to-morrow, when we go back to London, 
I’m gomg away 

Pearl Are you? Where^ 

Bessie The Princess is going to take me over to Pans for 
a few days 

Pearl Oh, is that alP Don’t stay away too long You 
ought to be in London just at present 

Bessie On my return I’m proposing to stay with the 
Princess 

Pearl [Calmly ] Nonsense 

Bessie 1 wasn’t asking your permission, Pearl I was 
telling you my plans 

Pearl [Looks at her for a moment reflectively ] Are you gomg 
to make me a scene, too? I’ve already gone through 
two this afternoon I’m rather tired of them 

Bessie Please don’t be alarmed I’ve got nothing more 
to say 

[She makes as though to leave the room 

Pearl Don’t be a little fool, Bessie You’ve been staying 
with me all the season I can’t allow you to leave my 



house and go and live with Flora We don’t want to 
go out of our way to make people gossip 
Bessie Please don’t argue with me, Pearl It’s not my 
busmess to reproach you for anything you do But it 
isn’t my business, either, to stand by and watch 
Pearl You’re no longer a child, Bessie 

Bessie I’ve been blind and foolish Because I was happy 
and having a good time, I never stopped to ask for 
explanations of this, that and the other I never thought 
The life was so gay and brilliant — it never struck 

me that underneath it all Oh, Pearl, don’t make me 

say what I have in my heart, but let me go quietly 

Pearl Bessie, dear, you must be reasonable Think what 
people would say if you suddenly left my house They’d 
ask all sorts of questions, and heaven knows what 
explanations they’d invent People aren’t charitable, you 
know I don’t want to be hard on you, but I can’t afford 
to let you do a thing like that 
Bessie Now that I know what I do, I should never respect 
myself again if I stayed 

Pearl I don’t know how you can be so unkind 
Bessie I don’t want to be that, Pearl But it’s stronger 
than I am I must go 

Pearl [With emotion ] I’m so fond of you, Bessie You 
don’t know how much I want you with me After all. 
I’ve seen so little of you these last few years It’s been 
such a comfort to me to have you You were so pretty 
and young and sweet, it was like a ray of April sunshine 
in the house 

Bessie I’m afraid you think women are as trivial, foolish 
creatures as men. Pearl 

[Pearl looks up and sees that Bessie is not tn the least 
taken tn by the pathetic attitude 
Pearl [Icily ] Take care you don’t go too far, Bessie, 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT III 


I09 


Bessie There’s no need for us to quarrel I’ve made up 
my mind, and there’s the end of it 

Pearl Flora’s a fool I shall tell her that I won’t have her 
take you away from me You’ll stay with me until 
vou’re marned 

Bessie D’you want me to tell you that I can hardly bear 
to speak to you^ You fill me with shame and disgust 
I want never to see you again 

Pearl Really, you drive me beyond endurance I think I 
must be the most patient woman in the world to put 
up with all I’ve had to put up with to-day After all, 
what have I done^ I was a little silly and incautious By 
the fuss you all make one would think no one had ever 
been incautious and silly before Besides, it hasn’t got 
anything to do with you Why don’t you mind your 
own business^ 

Bessie [B itterly] You talk as though your relations witn 
Arthur Fenwick were perfectly natural. 

Pearl Good heavens, you’re not going to pretend you 
didn’t know about Arthur After all, I’m no worse than 
anybody else Why, one of the reasons we Americans 
like London is that we can live our own lives and people 
accept things philosophically Eleo Gloster, Sadie 
Twickenham, Maimie Hartlepool — you don’t imagine 
they’re faithful to their husbands^ They didn’t marry 
them for that 

Bessie Oh, Pearl, how can you ? How can you^ Haven’t 
you any sense of decency at alP When I came in just 
now and saw you sitting on the sofa with that gross, 
vulgar, sensual old man — oh! j [She makes a gesture Oj 
disgust] You can’t love him I could have understood 
if . but — oh. It’s so disgraceful, it’s so hideous 
What can you see in hinP He’s nothing but nch 
[She pauses, and her face changes as a thought comes to her , 
and commghorrifies her ] It’s not because he’s nch? Pearl! OhI 


B 



no 


OU R BETTERS 


ACT III 


Pearl Really, Bessie, you’re very silly, and I’m tired of 
talking to you 

Bessie Pearl, it’s not that* Answer me Answer me 

Pearl [Roughly ] Mind your own business 

Bessie He was right, then, last night, when he called you 
that He was so right that you didn’t even notice it 
A few hours later you’re sitting hand in hand with him 
A slut That’s what he called you A slut A slut 

Pearl How dare you! Hold your tongue How dare you! 

Bessie A kept woman That’s what you are 

Pearl [Recovering herself ] I’m a fool to lose my temper 
with you 

Bessie Why should you^ I’m saying nothing but the 
truth 

Pearl You’re a silly little person, Bessie If Arthur helps 
me a little, that’s his affair, and mine He’s got more 
money than he knows what to do with, and it amuses 
him to see me spend it I could have twenty thousand 
a year from him if I chose 

Bessie Haven’t you got money of your own? 

Pearl You know exactly what I’ve got Eight thousand 
a year D’you think I could have got the position I 
have on that^ You’re not under the impression all the 
world comes to my house because of my charm, are 
yom> I’m not You don’t think the English want us 
here? You don’t think they like us marrying their men^ 
Good heavens, when you’ve known England as long as I 
have you’ll reali s e that in their hearts they still look 
upon us as savages and Red Indians We have to force 
ourselves upon them They come to me because I amuse 
them Very early in my career I discovered that the 
English can never resist getting something for nothing 
If a dancer is the rage, they’ll see her at my house If 
a fiddler is in vogue, they’ll hear him at my concert* 



ACT m OUR BETTERS III 

I give them balls I give them dinners I’ve made myseli 
the fashion. I’ve got power, I’ve got influence But 
everything I’ve got — my success, my reputation, my 
notoriety — I’ve bought it, bought it, bought it 
Bessie How humiliating* 

Pearl And, finally, I’ve bought you a husband 
Bessie That’s not true He loves me 
Pearl D’you think he’d have loved you if I hadn’t shown 
you to him in these surroundings, if I hadn’t dazzled 
him by the bnlhant people among whom he found you 
You don’t know what love is made of D’you think it’s 
nothing that he should hear a Prime Minister pay you 
compliments Of course I bought him 
Bessie [Aghast ] It’s horrible 

Pearl You know the truth now It’ll be very useful to 
you in your married life Run away and take your 
little walk with Harry Bleane I’m going to arrange 
my face 

[She goes out Bessie is left ashamed and stunned 
Bleane comes in 

Bleane I’m afraid I’ve kept you waiting I’m so sorry 
Bessie [Dully ] It doesn’t matter at all 
Bleane Where shall we go ? You know the way about 
these parts, and I don’t 

Bessie Harry, I want you to release me I can’t marry you 
Bleane [Aghast ] Why^ 

Bessie I want to go back to America I’m frightened* 
Bleane Of me? 

Bessie Oh no, I know that you’re a dear, good creature. 
I’m frightened of what I may become 
Bleane But I love you, Bessie 

Bessie Then that’s all the more reason for me to go I 
must tell you frankly I’m not m love with you, I only 



1 12 


OUR BETTERS 


ACT III 


like you I would never have dreamt of marrying you, 
if you hadn’t been who you are I wanted to have a title 
That’s why Pearl married her husband, and that’s why 
the Duchess married Let me go, Harry 

Bleane I knew you didn’t love me, out I thought you 
might come to in time I thought if I tried I could make 
you love me 

Bessie You didn’t know that I was nothmg but a self- 
seeking, heartless snob 

B lean e I don’t care what you say of yourself, I know that 
you can be nothing but what is true and charming 

Bessie After what you’ve seen last night? After what 
you know of this house 5 Aren’t you disgusted with 
all of us 5 

Bleane You can’t think I could class you with the Duchesse 
and [He stops] 

Bessie Pearl at my age was no different from what I am 
It’s the life 

Bleane But perhaps you won’t want to lead it The set 
you’ve been living in here isn’t the only set in England 
It makes a stir because it’s in the public eye Its doings 
are announced in the papers But it isn’t a very good 
set, and there are plenty of people who don’t very much 
admire it 

Bessie You must let me try and say what I have in my 
heart And be patient with me You think I can make 
myself at home in your life I’ve had a hint of it now 
and then I’ve seen a glimpse of it through Pearl’s 
laughter and the Duchesse’s sneers It’s a life of dignity, 
of responsibilities, and of public duty 

Bleane [With a rueful smile ] You make it very strenuous 

Bessie It comes naturally to the English girls of your class 
They’ve known it all their lives, and they’ve been brought 
up to lead it But we haven’t To us it’s just tedious. 



ACT III 


OUR BETTERS 


H3 


and its dignity is irksome We’re bored, and we fall 
back on the only thing that offers, pleasure You’ve 
spoken to me about vour house It means everything 
to you because it’s associated with your childhood and 
all your people before you It could only mean some- 
thing to me if I loved you And I don’t 
Bleane You’ve made me so wretched I don’t know what 
to say to you 

Bessie If I make you wretched now, it’s so that we may 
both be saved a great deal of unhappiness later on I’m 
glad I don’t care for you, for it would make it so much 
harder for me to go And I’ve got to go I can’t marry 
vou I want to go home If I marry ever I want to 
marry in my own country That is my place 
Bleane Don’t you think you could wait a little before you 
decide finally^ 

Bessie Don’t put difficulties in my way Don’t you see 
that we’re not strong enough for the life over here^ It 
goes to our head, we lose our bearings, we put away 
our own code, and we can’t adopt the code of the 
country we come to We drift There’s nothing for 
us to do but amuse ourselves, and we fall to pieces 
But in America we’re safe And perhaps America wants 
us When we come over here we’re like soldiers desert- 
ing our country in time of war Oh, I’m homesick for 
America I didn’t know how much it meant to me till 
now Let me go back, Harry 
Bleane If you don’t want to marry me, of course. I’m not 
going to try and make you 
Bessie Don’t be angry, and be my friend always 
Bleane Always 

Bessie After all, three months ago you didn’t know me 
In three months more you will have forgotten me Then 
marry some English girl, who can hveg^our life and 
share your thoughts And be happy. 



1*4 OUR BETTERS ACT III 

[Pearl comes m She has rouged her cheeks, and has 
once more the healthy colour which ts usual With her 
She ts evidently jubilant 

Pearl The car has just come back from London [She 
goes to the french window and calls ] Minnie! 

Bessie I shall tell Pearl to-morrow 

Bleane I won’t post my letters then I’ll go and get them 
out of the bos 

Bessie Forgive me 

[He goes out The Duchesse and Clay appear at the 
window 

Duchesse Did you call me ? 

Pearl The car has just come back from London, so it can 
take you to the station 

Duchesse That’s a mercy I didn’t at all like the idea of 
going to the station in the luggage cart Where is Flora? 
I must say good-bye to her 

Pearl Oh, there’s plenty of time now The car will run 
you down in ten minutes 

[Tony comes in, then the Princess and Fleming 

Duchesse Tony, the car has returned, and is going to take 
us to the station 

Tony Thank God for that! I should have looked a perfect 
fool in that luggage cart 

Clay But what on earth did you send the car to London 
for, anyway? 

Pearl In one minute you’ll see 

[Arthur Fenwick comes m He has changed into 
flannels 

Fenwick Who 1$ that gentleman that’s just arrived. Pearl? 

Pearl The man ot mystery 

[The Butler comes in, followed by Ernest, ana after 
announcing him goes out 



ACT III 


OUR BETTERS 


1*5 

Pole Mr Ernest 

Duchesse Ernest! 

Clay Ernest^ 

[He zs a little dark man > with large eyes , and long hatr 
neatly plastered donn He zs dressed hke a tailor's 
dummy , zn black coat> white gloves , silk hat , 
patent leather boots He zs a dancing master , and 
overwhelmingly gentlemanly He speaks zn mincing 
tones 

Ernest Dear Lady Grayston 

Pearl [Shaking hands with him ] I’m so glad you were able 
to come [To the others ] You were talking about Ernest 
last night, and I thought we would have nothing to do 
this evening and he would cheer and comfort us I sent 
the car up to London with orders to bring him back 
dead or alive 

Ernest My dear Lady Grayston, I’m sure I’ll get into no 
end of trouble I had all sorts of calls to pay this after- 
noon, and I was dining out, and I’d promised to go to 
a little hop that the dear Duchess of Gloster was giving 
But I felt I couldn’t refus eyou You’ve always been such 
a good friend to me, dear Lady Grayston You must 
excuse me coming in my town clothes, but your 
chauffeur said there wasn’t a moment to lose, so I came 
just as I am 

Pe\rl But you look a perfect picture 

Ernest Oh, don’t say that, dear Lady Grayston, I know this 
isn’t the sort of thing one ought to wear in the country 

Pearl You remember the Duchesse de Surennes^ 

Ernest Oh, of course I remember the Duchesse 

Duchesse Dear Ernest! 

Ernest Dear Duchesse! 

Duchesse I thought I was never going to see you again, 
Ernest 



OUR BETTERS 


act in 


Il6 

Ernest Oh, don’t say that, it sounds too sad* 

Pearl It’s such a pity you must go, Minnie Ernest could 
have shown you all sorts of new steps 

Ernest Oh, dear Duchesse, you’re not going the very 
moment I come dowxP That is unkind of you 

Duchesse [With an effort ] I must go I must go 

Ernest Have you been practising that little step I showed 
you the other day^ My dear friend, the Marchioness of 
Twickenham — not the old one, you know, the new one — 
is beginning to do it so well 

Duchesse [Struggling with herself \ Have we time, PearP I 
should like Ernest to dance just one two-step with me 

Pearl Of course there’s time Thornton, set the gramo- 
phone 

[Thornton Clay at once starts it, and the notes oj 
the two-step tinkle out 

Duchesse You don’t mind, Ernest, do you^ 

Ernest I love dancing with you, Duchesse 

[They take up their positions 

Duchesse Just one moment It always makes me so nervous 
to dance with you, Ernest 

Ernest Oh, now, don’t be silly, dear Duchesse 

[They begin to dance 

Ernest Now hold your shoulders like a lady Arch your 
back, my dear, arch your back Don’t look like a sack 
of potatoes If you put your foot there, I shall kick it 

Duchesse Oh, Ernest, don’t be cross with me 

Ernest I shall be cross with you, Duchesse You don’t 
pay any attention to what I say You must give your 
mind to it 

Duchesse I do! I do! 



ACT m OtR BETTERS 117 

Ernest And don’t dance like an old fish-wife Put some 
vim into it That’s what I always say about these modern 
dances you want two things, vim and nous 

Duchesse [Plaintively ] ErnestI 

Ernest Now don’t cry Pm saying all this for your good, 
you know What’s wrong with you is that you’ve got 
no passion 

Duchesse Oh, Ernest, how can you say such a thing I’ve 
always looked upon myself as a very passionate woman* 

Ernest I don’t know anything about that, dear Duchesse, 
but you don’t get it into your dancing That’s what 
I said the other day to the dear Marchioness of Twicken- 
ham — not the new one, you know, the old one — You 
must put passion into it, I said That’s what these 
modern dances want — passion, passion 

Duchesse I see exactly what you mean, Ernest. 

Ernest And you must dance with your ej es as well, you 
know You must look as if you had a knife in your 
garter, and as if you’d kill me if I looked at another 
woman Don’t you see how I’m looking. I’m looking 
as though I meant. Curse herl how I love her Therel 
[The music stops and they separate 

Duchesse I have improved, Ernest, haven’t P 

Ernest Yes, you’ve improved, dear Duchesse, but you 
want more practice 

Pearl Minnie, why on earth don’t you stay, and Ernest 
will give you a real lesson this evening 

Ernest That’s what you want. Duchess 

[The Duchesse wrestles with her soul 

Duchesse Tony, d’you think we can stop? 

Tony I didn’t want to go away It’s rotten going up to 
town this evening What on earth are we going to do 
with ourselves when we get there^ 



OUR BETTERS 


ACT III 


Il8 

Duchesse Very well, Pearl, if it’ll please you, we’ll stop 
Pearl That is nice of you, Minnie 
Duchesse You’re very naughty sometimes. Pearl, but you 
have a good heart, and I can’t help being fond of you 
Pearl [With outstretched arms ] Minnie! 

Duchesse Pearl* 

[They clasp one another and affectionately embrace 
Ernest What an exquisite spectacle — two ladies of title 
kissing one another 

Bessie [To Fleming] They’re not worth making a fuss 
about I’m sailing for America next Saturday! 

The End 



THE UNATTAINABLE 


A FARCE 
to Tires Acts 




CHARACTERS 


Caroline Ashley 
Isabella Trench 
Maude Fulton 
Cooper 

Robert Oldham 
Rex Cunningham 
Dr Cornish 


The action takes place during the morning and after- 
noon of one day in the drawing-room of Caroline's house m 
Regent's Park. 




THE UNATTAINABLE 

THE FIRST ACT 

Scene The drawing-room ^Caroline’s house tn Regent 9 s Park 
It is spacious and airy It is furnished tn a pleasantly fantastic 
manner by a woman who desires to be tn the latest mode 9 but 
who tempers it with her own good taste The influence of 
futurism is apparent tn the carpet \ the cushions , the coverings 
of sofas and chairs, but there is nothing so outrageous as to 
make the room merely a curiosity Here and there large jars 
of flowers contrast the sobriety of nature with the extravagance 
of human imagination 

It is early summer and late tn the morning 

Cooper, a trim parlourmaid , ushers in Mrs Trench 
Isabella Trench is a woman of thirty-five , fair , plump , 
pretty still \ well dressed and debonair She has an attractive 
softness and a great gift of sympathy Her heart melts to 
every unhappmess 9 and people tn distress go to her in- 
stinctively 

Cooper I’ll tell Mrs Ashley you’re here, madam. 

Isabella She’s not down yet^ 

Cooper* No, madam, she’s only just had her bath 

Isabella Do ask her i£ I can come up I want to see her 
at once 

Cooper Very good, madam 

Isabella. Tell her I’m frightfully excited. 

Cooper. Very good, madam. 

Isabella [With a smile ] Of course you know. Cooper^ 

Cooper Oh, yes, madam, it was cook saw it first She 

x*3 



124 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


ACT I 


always likes to have a look at The Times before it goes 
upstairs 

Isabella Was Mrs Ashlev surprised 
Cooper Well, madam, she never said a word She just kept 
staring at the announcement As I said to cook, I really 
thought her eyes would pop out of her head 
Isabella I must see her at once, Cooper 
Cooper 111 go and tell her, madam [As she is going the 
telephone bell rings Cooper answers it ] Yes — who is it, 
please 5 No, miss, this is Mrs Ashley’s maid speaking 
[To Isabella ] It’s Miss Fulton, madam 
Isabella Oh, let me speak to her I think I know what she 
wants Go and tell Mrs Ashley I’m here. 

Cooper Very good, madam 

[Exit Isabella sits down and takes the receiver 
Isabella Maude, Maude! It’s Isabella Trench speaking I 
rang you up this morning, and they said you hadn’t 
come up from the country I have not seen Caroline yet 
I know no more than you do, darling I think it must be 
true. After all, it’s in The Times Why don’t you come 
round? I’m sure Caroline will want to see you Yes, 
that’s it You’ll find me here Good-bye 

[She puts down the receiver Cooper ushers m Rex 
Cunningham He is a nice-looking young man with 
dark eyes , and dark hair brushed back over his head 
and plastered down He achieves a romantic look y 
notwithstanding bis motor-coat and the cap that be 
carries m his hand 
Cooper Mr Cunningham 

[Rex hesitates a moment as he sees a stranger in the 
room , then recognises Isabella and comes forward 
cordially Isabella greets him without warmth 
Rex How do you do 5 

Cooper Mrs Ashley will be down directly, marfam . 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE 1*5 

Isabella Very well 

[Extt Cooper 

Rex [Lookmg at his wrist watch ] She promised she’d be 
ready on the minute 
Isabella What for? 

Rex I’ve got a new two-seater I’m going to take her for 
a turn round Richmond Park 
Isabella When did you make that arrangement? 

Rex Last night 

[She looks at him for a moment pulled 
Isabella Haven’t you heard the news? 

Rex What news? 

Isabella Why, there’s an announcement in The Times this 
morning of Stephen Ashley’s death 
Rex My hatl Ought one to condole with Caroline or 
congratulate her? 

Isabella I didn’t know you called her Caroline 
Rex Didn’t you? 

Isabella She hasn’t seen her husband for over ten years 
One can hardly expect her to be very much upset Still, 
I don’t think she’ll want to go for a run in your two- 
seater 

Rex Why not? 

Isabella She’ll have other things to do 
Rex Was her husband an awful brute? 

Isabella I don’t know anything about him Caroline never 
discusses her relations with him I don’t believe there’s 
one of her friends who’s ever seen him even, 

Rex I asked her once if he was cruel to her She said no, 
he had adenoids 

Isabella You seem to be on very intimate terms with 
Caroline 

Rex Do you disapprove? 



126 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT I 

Isabella Very much 

Rex What shall we do about it ? 

Isabella D’you know that Robert Oldham and Caroline 
have been madly in love with one another for the last 
ten years^ It has given me a new faith m human nature to 
watch their charming affection for one another They’ve 
waited all this time, and now at last Caroline is free 
I’m so glad to think they have nothing to reproach 
themselves with It’s the happy ending to a fairy story 

Rex [Dejectedly ] 1 suppose you think the only thing I can 
do is to take myself off 
Isabella Robert may be here any minute 
Rex I was looking forward enormously to our drive 
Isabella Are you in love with Caroline^ 

Rex Desperately 

Isabella [Putting her hand on hts arm ] I’m so sorry You 
must try and get over it 
Rex I shall never do that 
Isabella But you knew about Robert 

Rex He’s forty-five if he’s a day No man can be seriously 
in love at that age 

Isabella Caroline oughtn’t to have let you come here 
She must have known that you cared for her 

Rex She told me she was in love with Robert Oldham* 

Isabella [More and more sympathetic ] Are you awfully 
unhappy^ 

Rex Awfully Do you think there’s no chance for me 
at alP 

Isabella It arould be cruel to hold out any hopes to you 
None— none whatever 

Rex [Sombrely ] My hati 
Isabella Now you must go 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE IZJ 

Rex All right If you think I’d better You’ve been awfully 
kind to me 

Isabella I’ve got such a soft heart and you’ve touched it 
Rex May I call you Isabella^ 

Isabella I’d like you to 

[She gives him her hand He raises it to his hp± and 
kisses it 

Isabella I’m such a sentimentalist Love always moves 
me 

Rex Good-bye 

[Exit Isabella wipes the tiny tears that glisten in the 
corner of her eyes Caroline comes m She is a very 
attractive woman of thirty-five , tally slim , with 
humorous eyes and a charming smile She is dressed 
for motoring 
Isabella Carolmel 
Caroline Have i kept you waiting^ 

Isabella Why didn’t you let me come up p I wanted to see 
you so badly 

Caroline I don’t let even my dearest friend see me till 
I’ve done my hair 

Isabella I suppose you don’t like your forehead^ 
Caroline Not much By the way, where is Rex^ I saw 
his car from my window 

Isabella I thought you wouldn’t want to see him this 
morning I sent him away 
Caroline Why on earth did you do that? 

Isabella My dear, do you know he’s in love with you^ 
Caroline I should be a perfect fool if I didn’t 
Isabella He hasn’t told you so^ 

Caroline I’m beginning to think it’s his only topic of 
conversation. 

Isabella My dear, how can you be so flippant^ 



128 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT I 

Cafoline D’you think I ought to take him seriously^ 

Isabella [Not without acidity ] Of course, he’s very young, 
I don’t suppose he means half he says 

Caroline [Chaffing her ] Even if he means a quarter it’s a 
good deal 

Isabella D’you think he wants to marry you^ 

Caroline I don’t know I’m sure he wants to elope with 
me 

Isabella You’re too exasperating, Caroline But I didn’t 
come here to talk about Rex 

Caroline D’you call him Rex ? 

Isabella He asked me to just now. 

Caroline [Smiling ] Oh! 

Isabella Now, Caroline, be serious Is it true ? When I 
read the births, deaths, and marriages in The Times this 
morning, and suddenly saw your name, I could hardly 
believe my eyes 

Caroline Neither could I “On the 29th ult , at the 
Edward and Alexandra Hospital, Nairobi, Stephen, only 
son of the late Algernon Ashley of Bleane Woods, 
Faversham, aged 41 By Cable ” 

Isabella It must be true 

Caroline Of course, it’s very circumstantial, but Stephen 
had a peculiar sense of humour He’s been reported dead 
two or three times It’s true, it’s never got so far as 
the obituary column of The Times before 

Isabella Can’t you make certain? 

Caroline I telephoned to my solicitors and they’ve cabled 
to Nairobi Somehow I think it is true this time 

Isabella Shall you go into mourning? 

Caroline I don’t see why I should 

Isabella I wouldn’t unless you think it’ll become you 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE 129 

Caroline After all, I haven’t seen or heard of my husband 
for more than ten years It would be hypocrisy to 
pretend that I regret his death 

Isabella I never knew exactly why you separated from 
him 

Caroline Oh, he had adenoids 

Isabella \Smihng ] You are the most reserved person I 
ever met 

Caroline I managed not to discuss his failings while he 
was alive I think I may just as well hold my tongue 
about them now he’s dead 

Isabella Ah, well, whatever you suffered it’s all over now 
You’ve only got happiness to look forward to Oh, my 
dear, marry Robert quickly Don’t let there be any 
delays Heaven knows you’ve waited long enough 

Caroline Ten years 

Isabella Aren’t you glad now that you have nothing to 
reproach yourselves withP I know, I’m very glad for 
you 

Caroline There was never any possibility of anything else 
Of course, we might have bolted, but Robert has prac- 
tised too long in the Divorce Court to fancy the role of 
co-respondent Besides, he had nothing but his practice 
to live upon And we were too fond of one another to 
ask the infinite tediousness of an affair 

Isabella Everyone must admire your strength 

Caroline It didn’t require strength, only common sense 

Isabella Have you heard from him this morning^ 

Caroline No, I knew he had to be in chambers early. 

Isabella He’s certain to come round presently 

Caroline I shouldn’t think so He’s in a case that’s first 
on the list 



ACT I 


I30 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Isabella Aren't you excitecP I wonder how you can bear 
} our impatience 

Caroline I can hardly expect Robert to throw up a case 
to come and propose to me, can P 

[Cooper enters to announce Maude Fulton She is a 
smartly-dressed spinster not far off forty , with bright 
eyes and a vivacious manner She has a sharp tongue 
She is sentimental when other people are concerned , but 
exceedingly practical m her own affairs 

Cooper Miss Fulton 

[Exit 

Maude Oh, my dear, I’ve had a success I’ve been followed 
in the street 

Caroline [. Amused , greeting her ] Maudel 

Maude I was rushing along here, when suddenly I realized 
that a man was following me Well, I wanted to make 
sure, so I crossed to the other side of the street, and he 
crossed too I slackened down I was simply 
running along, I was so anxious to see you and dear 
Robert — and he slackened down 

Isabella Weren’t you frightened^ 

Maude Frightened? Of course not I’m constantly being 
followed in the street I like it It gives an amusement 
to the dullest walk Of course, it never goes any 
further 

Caroline Do you say that with relief or with regreP 

Maude Oh, my dear, I should never have a moment to 
myself if I listened to all the men who want to make love 
to me Of course, I cannot make out what it is they see 
in me I know I’m not beautiful, but there’s evidently 
something about me that they can’t resist 

Caroline [Chaffing her ] I expect it is that you throw your- 
self at their heads I never knew a man yet who could 
resist that 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE 131 

Maude Oh, my dear, I quite forgot My best con- 
gratulations 

Caroline On the death of my husband? 

Maude And on your engagement to Robert Oldham 

Caroline It’s very kind of you, but I’m not engaged to 
Robert Oldham 

Maude Oh, nonsense, that follows automatically on the 
death of your husband, like putting a penny in the slot 
and getting a piece of chocolate out I suppose he’s 
running along to Somerset House now to get a special 
licence 

Caroline My dear, don’t be ridiculous He hasn’t asked me 
to marry him 

Isabella But he’s going to 

Caroline [Thoughtfully ] I suppose he is 

Maude What on earth d’you mean, Caroline^ You know 
he is 

Caroline [With exasperation] Yes, of course I do But 
don’t badger me You talk as if we had to marry if 
we liked it or not I’m not going to force the man to 
marry me 

Maude Oh, my dear, don’t talk such nonsense He’s been 
passionately in love with you for years 

Caroline Foryearsl 

Isabella And you’ve been just as much in love with him, 
Caroline 

Caroline I know I have 

Maude You’ve both been looking forward to this moment 
even since you met one another^ 

Caroline And now it’s come 

Isabella What a funny thing to say, Caroline 

Caroline It’s the obvious thing to say, isn’t it P I’m getting 
into training for marned life 



ACT I 


I32 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Isabella How strange you are this morning I expected to 
find you, oh, I scarcely know — tremulous, crying a 
little, perhaps 

Caroline [With a smile ] I suppose you were prepared to 
mingle your tears with mine 

Isabella Happy tears I certainly didn’t expect to find 
you 

Caroline What? 

Maude In a beastly temper, my dear 

Isabella Be nice to Robert when he comes, Caroline 
Think how he must be hating that stupid case which 
is keeping him away Don’t you know what his thoughts 
are? I do He’s counting the minutes — why, I can 
almost hear the beating of his heart 

Caroline What nonsense you talk, Isabella 

Isabella Can’t you see him, when he gets here at last, 
ringing the bell? And the time seems mterminable 
till Cooper opens the door And then he’ll run up the 
stairs four at a time 

Caroline It’s just like a penny novelette, isn’t it? But he 
won’t, because it would make him out of breath 

Isabella As if he’ll think of that, you foolish creature 
He’ll just take you in his arms and say At last, at last — 
I see it all 

Maude I’d love to be here I adore romance 

Caroline I shall be greatly obliged if you’ll both of you 
go away before he comes 

Isabella Of course, darling There are moments when one 
has a right to be rid of prying eyes 

Maude When did he say he was coming? 

Caroline He hasn't said I’ve not heard from him this 
morning 

Maude D’you mean to say he didn’t telephone? I wonder 
why not 



*CT I THE UNATTAINABLE 1 33 

Caroline Perhaps he hadn’t time to look at the paper H* 
may not know 

Maude Oh, nonsense 

Isabella I think it’s very natural he shouldn’t have tele- 
phoned After all, Stephen Ashley was your husband 
Robert is a man of the greatest delicacy It may easily 
have occured to him that just at that moment you might 
have certain memories that you preferred to be left 
alone with 

Caroline How long do you give his delicacy? 

Maude Till the court rises, personally 

Isabella [Smiling] I believe you’re just as impatient as I 
know he is 

Caroline My dear, when you’ve been staying at the seaside, 
haven’t you sometimes gone down to the beach meaning 
to have a bathe, and when you got there found the sea 
look very chilly^ You try not to notice it You go into 
your bathing machine, and it’s grey and comfortless 
But you take off your clothes and put on your bathing 
dress, and then you open the door You see in front of 
you a narrow bit of sea And it’s cold and yellow and 
dreary and wet And your heart sinks 

Maude The only thing then is not to think about it, but 
to jump in quickly 

Caroline I’m wondering if that is what Robert is saying 
to himself just now 

Isabella What on earth makes you think that ? 

Caroline It’s a very good plan to ascribe your own 
feelings to other people 

Maude My dear, you don’t mean to say you’re frightened? 

Caroline [Desperately ] Panic-stricken 

Isabella How foolish you are, Caroline! You don’t mean 
to say you have any doubt about Robert’s devotion? 



I$4 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT I 

Macjde Oh, is that what’s troubling you^ 

Isabella Why, everyone knows he adores you Don’t you 
know how he speaks about you to your friends^ I 
remember, last New Year’s Eve when we were having 
supper together at the Savoy, I said to him Doesn’t it 
make you rather melancholy to think that another year 
is gone^ No, he said, every New Year that comes brings 
me nearer to marrying Caroline 

Caroline He’s a dear old thing Of course, I know he 
loves me 

Maude We have inspired love, you and I, Caroline 

Caroline But your adorers don’t put a pistol to your head 
and say Marry me 

Maude No, but they frequently put one to their own and 
say they’ll shoot themselves if I don’t 

Caroline You’re still a spinster, Maude, how do you meet 
the situation^ 

Maude I tell them the truth After mature consideration 
I have come to the conclusion that one husband is not 
enough for one woman 

Caroline Good heavens, I found one much more than I 
wanted 

Maude That doesn’t prove that you might not have found 
three more satisfactory 

Isabella Three! 

Maude That is my ideal I would live two days a week 
with each and have my Sundays to myself 

[The telephone hell rings 

Isabella That is Robert 

Caroline It can’t be He must be in court just now 

[She goes towards the telephone It keeps on ringing 

Isabella I have a presentiment I’m convinced it’s Robert 
[Just as Caroline is about to fake the receiver she 
hesitates , she is very nervous 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE IJJ 

Caroline Answer for me, Maude, in case • , , 

Maude Very well 

[She takes up the receiver and listens 

Caroline I hate telephones I wish I’d never had one put m 

Maude Who is that^ No This is Miss Fulton speaking, 
but I’ll call Mrs Ashley — yes. I’ll hold on. 

Caroline Maude, who is iF> 

Maude [Significantly ] Mr Oldham’s clerk 

Caroline [Agitated ] Maude, say I can’t speak to anybody 
Say I’m out Say you don’t know when I’ll be in 

Maude [Into the receiver ] Is that you, Robert^ This is Maud 
Fulton Caroline is here Yes, she’ll be delighted to 
see you 

Caroline Maude, I’m out I’m out, I tell you Say you’ve 
made a mistake Maude, you catl 

Maude [Taking no notice ] Yes, you’d better come round 
at once Of course Caroline’s disengaged, she’s been 
expecting you 

Caroline [Aghast ] Maude! 

Maude Good-bye [She puts down the receiver ] That settles 
that 

Caroline Maude, I’ll never forgive you It’s monstrous 
You had no right to say all that I’ll never speak to 
you again as long as I live You said I’d been expecting 
him 

Maude Well, haven’t you ? And what’s more, he knows 
you’ve been expecting him After all these years it really 
is not worth while for you to play hide-and-seek with 
one another 

Caroline It’s so humiliating You’ve told him almost in 
so many words that I’m sitting here waiting for him to 
come and make me a proposal of marriage. 

Maude So you are 



ACT I 


136 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Caroline Has the possibility occurred to you that I may 
refuse him? 

Maude {Decidedly ] No 
Caroline Why not^ 

Maude You’ve let him wait for you year after year He’s 
given you the best of his life He’s sacrificed everything 
in the hope of marrying you some day Now you must 
marry him if you want to or not 
Isabella But you do want to, Caroline^ 

Caroline [. Hesitatingly ] I thought so yesterday 
Isabella You know he dotes on you You’ll never find 
anyone who will love you so faithfully 
Caroline It’s loving that’s the important thing, not being 
loved 

Maude But you love him, Caroline Don’t be so silly 
All your friends have known for ten years that you 
loved him You’re not like me You’re one of those 
constant women You’ve never bothered your head 
about another man since first you made Robert’s 
acquaintance 

Isabella Your feelings can’t have changed from one day 
to another 

Caroline I suppose they can’t 
Isabella You must accept him, Caroline 
Caroline Yes, I know [With a smile ] Don’t be afraid 
I’m going to But don’t be harsh with me It can’t 
be very strange that I’m a little nervous In fact, I 
distinctly feel my heart Jpeatmg in my boots 
Isabella Never mind that The shyness you’re feeling gives 
you a sort of tremulous charm which, I promise you, is 
very effective 

Caroline I must go and put on some other things* It’s 
only fair to Robert to set out the object he’s going to 
purchase to the best advantage 



ACT I 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


*37 

Isabella No matter what you wear he’ll think you 
ravishing 

Caroline Dear Robert I know But for all that I will 
not be proposed to in a motor-coat 
Isabella You’re going to make him very happy 
Caroline I think I am I was very foolish just now I’m 
beginning to feel more at ease After all, it is a great 
pleasure to know that after all his kindness to me, all 
his unselfish devotion, I have it in my power at last to 
give him his heart’s desire 

[Ext* 

Maude That’s that 
Isabella Poor Caroline! 

Maude Now, will you tell me what is the matter with her 
Isabella [With a shrug of shoulders ] Hope deferred \\ hen 
you’ve wanted something very badly and it comes at 
last, it is somehow a little frightening 
Maude You’re sure there isn’t another man somewhere 
lurking in the background 1 

Isabella Oh, quite Rex Cunningham was here this 
motmng, but she didn’t see him I sent him away 

Maude Very wise of you 

Isabella I felt sorry for him He’s desperately m love with 
her But I’m sure she isn’t even interested in him. She’s 
only known him thiee months 

Maude A man you’ve known three months always has an 
advantage over a man you’ve known ten years 

Isabella Now I know why you never married, Maude 
Maude Why ? 

Isabella Because nobody asked you 
Maude How did you guess 1 * 

Isabella Because you have common sense Men like it in 
a wife, but not in a girl 



ACT I 


138 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Maude I’m very glad you sent Rex away When next he 
comes he’ll find everything settled 

[Enter Cooper, followed by Rex. 

Cooper Mr Cunningham 

[Exit Cooper The two ladies are taken aback by bis 
unexpected appearance He is not a little surprised 
to find Isabella still there 

Rex Oh, I was expecting to find Caroline [Shaking hands 
with Miss Fulton ] How do you do ? 

Maude [Promptly ] She’ll be down in one moment You 
must stay 

Rex I was going to 

Isabella I thought you were going for a drive? 

Rex Alone^ I just tootled round the Park, and then I 
made up my mind that I must see Caroline 
Maude I quite understand It’s nice of you to want to be 
the first 

Rex [Not comprehending ] I beg your pardon? 

Maude [Sweetly ] To congratulate her on her engagement 
Rex [With consternation ] What 3 

Maude You don’t mean to say you didn’t know? She’s 
to be married to Robert Oldham almost directly I think 
it’s so charming that these two dear people should come 
together after all these years And you know, they’re 
madly in love with one another 
Rex But they weren’t engaged a quarter of an hour ago 
Maude Oh, that’s nothing I’ve been frequently engaged 
and broken it off again within twelve minutes 
Rex Of course, that’s quite comprehensible 
Maude Do you think so^ It isn’t true 
Rex It might be Anyhow, I’m going to wait till I see 
Caroline 
Maude Why^ 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE I39 

Rex Because I’m going to propose to her, if you want to 
know [To Isabella] I ought never to have let you 
chivvy me away It’s impossible that she should marry 
Robert Oldham It’ll break my heart If you have any 
kindness you won’t try and prevent me from seeing her 
I must see her 

Maude Of course, you must see her You’ll hardly recog- 
nize her She looks ten years younger She’s simply 
radiant I’ve never seen anyone look so happy How she 
adores that man! [Rex gives a gasp ] They’re going to be 
married by special licence They’ve already made up 
their minds to go to Vemce for their honeymoon 
Robert had to go away for a few m i n utes, she could 
hardly bear to let him out of her sight 
Rex [Sinking down crushed ] My hat! I shall never get over 
this 

Isabella [Going up to him ] My poor boy! Rex! Rex! 

Rex It’s just like my luck That’s the sort of thing that 
always happens to me 

Maude I never loved a young gazelle but it was sure to die 
Isabella Maude! [To Rex compassionately ] It breaks my 
heart to see you so wretched 
Rex Nobody ever cares for me 
Isabella Don’t say that It sounds so hopeless 
Rex [Getting up ] I’d better go There’s nothing for me to 
do here now 

Isabella [Taking bis hand ] Where are you goi ag> 

Rex I don’t know, I don’t care 

Isabella I can’t bear to see you like this, . * Won't you 
come and dine with me to-night^ 

Rex You’ll find me very dull. 

Isabella Oh, no, I shan’t 

Rex [Still holding her hand ] Very well. You are good to me 
Isabella Good-bye 



ACT I 


140 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Rex You have an extraordinary gift of sympathy There’s 
something about the blueness of your eyes that seems 
to console one 
Isabella Dear Rex 

[He goes out mth a bow to Maude 
Maude Well, my dear, you’re wasting no time 
Isabella [Indignantly ] Maude* The poor boy was abso- 
lutely broken up It made my heart bleed I couldn’t let 
him go without a word of comfort 
Maude H’ml Why did you ask him to dinner? 

Isabella I thought he’d like to talk to me about Caroline 
I couldn’t bear to think of him passing the whole evening 
by himself He would have been too wretched 
Maude Oh, well, with a husband safely tucked away m 
India you can afford to be a sympathetic friend 
Isabella What things you said to him! It simply made 
my hair stand on end 

Maude Don’t you think it was much the best thing to do? 
Caroline is in a funny mood There’s something 
pathetic and rather charming about that young man I 
don’t deny it for a minute I’ve got a heart just as much 
as you have, my dear There’s no knowing what 
Caroline might have done in a moment of emotion 
It was much better to face him with the accomplished 
fact 

Isabella You’re a wonderful bar, Maude 
Maude Don’t be idiotic, my dear To lie well is one of 
the privileges of our sex I don’t lie any better than 
you do Besides, were they lies? I was only anticipating 
In half an hour all I said will be true 
Isabella X don’t say you weren’t justified 

Maude And what is half an hour? Just think how time 
changes from one place to another Why, Caroline’s 
engagement is already ancient history in Petrograd 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE 141 

Isabella Yes, if you look at it like that it’s a white lie at 
the utmost 

Maude Oh, my dear, not even that Hardly more than 
a fib 

[Cooper comes in followed by Robert Oldham 
Robert is a tall handsome man of five-andforty , 
well-preserved , but inclined to stoutness , be zs well 
dressed , well cared for , and evidently desirous to hold 
on to a semblance of youth 
Cooper Mr Oldham 

[Exit 

Maude [Enthusiastically ] Robert* 

Isabella [Sympathetically ] Dear Robert 

[Robert is a little taken aback at the warmth of his 
greenng i but he braces himself and advances into the 
room 

Robert You welcome me as though I’d had a narrow shave 
of being run over by a motor-bus 
Isabella We’re very glad to see you 
Maude We’ve been waiting for you all the morning 
Robert Oh! [With an effort at alacrity ] I wish I’d knovn 
[Shakes hands with Maude ] How do you do? 

Maude I must kiss you 
Robert Must you? 

Maude [Drawing back coyly ] Don’t you want me to? 
Robert Of course I do I’d like it 

[He offers her his cheek and she kisses him 
Maude Now don’t pretend you’re as cool as a cucumber 
Men are so silly They’re so afraid of their emotions 
Of course, you’re all in a flutter Let me feel your pulse 

Robert I shall not You’re very familiar with me, Maude, 
I don’t like it 
Maude Dear Robert 


F 



142 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT I 

Robert [To Isabella, taking her hand ] And how are you, 
dea lad} ^ 

[She leaves her hand tn his It must he a hahit of hers 

Isabella [A little tremulously ] I hardly know what to say 
to you Oh, Robert, Fm so happy in your happiness 
Isn’t it wondejfuP After all these years — it’s so stupid 
of me, I almost feel as if I could cry 

Robert You have a wonderful heart, Isabella 

Isabella You know I’m not clever I can’t express 
myself, but believe me, I feel all that you could wish 
me to feel 

Robert You may kiss me if you wish to 

Isabella [Laughing] I don’t 

Robert A rebuff 

Maude But how on earth have you managed to get here^ 

Robert By the drastic method of taking a taxi 

Maude Don’t be exasperating We were under the im- 
pression you had a case this morning 

Robert Who is we^ 

Maude Caroline, Isabella, and myself 

Robert I see No, a case which was expected to finish 
yesterday has turned out rather a long one I dare say 
we shan’t come on to-day at all 

Maude [Promptly ] Then why didn’t you come earlier^ 

Robert It’s only midday I know that Caroline is not an 
early riser 

Maude You might have telephoned 

Robert I had some papers to read Business before 
pleasure, you know Have you been discussing 
my silence^ 

Isabella [Smiling] I think I was right after all I put it 
down to delicacy Any nice man would realize that just 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE *45 

at that moment a woman must prefer to be alone with 
her recollections 

Maude Anyhow, the important thing is that \ ou’re here 
now And if I know you at all you’ve got a ring in 
your pocket 

[Robert gives a slight start 

Isabella Oh, Robert, do show it me 1 I’d lo\e to see it 

Robert But I haven’t got a ring I went straight to cham- 
bers this morning and then I came straight here It never 
occurred to me 

Maude You stupid man! Caroline vould have been so 
pleased 

Isabella And touched But never mind, when she sees 
you she’ll think of nothing but that she’s free and } ou’re 
here And for ever and ever you’ll be here Oh, Robert, 
be kind to her! Remember all she’s gone through You 
can never do too much for her 

Robert I know 

Maude Have you made up your mind where you’re going 
to spend your honeymoon? 

Robert My dear Maude, it’s only a couple of hours ago 
that I saw the sad news of Stephen Ashley’s death 

Maude Sad, do you call them? 

Robert For him, I mean Of course, not for me I don’t 
suppose there’s anybody who isn’t cared for by someone 
or other. I expect somebody is regretting him 

Maude I very much doubt it I think we may safely look 
upon his death as a happy release 

Robert Idon’t know why you say that You know nothing 
about him except that he had adenoids. 

Isabella It’s so 'pleniid of Caroline never to have said a 
single word against him 

Robert Oh, splendid But, after all, a man may have 



144 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT I 

adenoids and yet be possessed of all kinds of — admirable 
qualities 

Maude You’re not going to stand up for him If Caroline 
refused to say anything against him, it’s certainly not 
because there was nothing to say 

Robert Of course not 

Maude It almost sounded as if you were taking his part 

Robert Good heavens, don’t be so literal I was making 
a general observation That’s why conversation is im- 
possible with women They will find a personal appli- 
cation in a general statement Besides, a man with my 
particular experience knows that a person may have all 
manner of virtues and yet be insupportable to live with 

Isabella Fortunately that isn’t the case with Caroline 

Robert Oh, no, Caroline is wonderful Who should know 
it better than P 

Maude Personally, I recommend you to go to Venice 

Robert [As though he were just on the verge of starting ] Now^ 

Maude For your honeymoon I mean 

Robert Oh, I beg your pardon, I’d forgotten for the 
moment Can you quite see us gushing up and down 
the Grand CanaP I fancy we’ve known one another a 
little too long for Venice 

Maude Oh, but marriage makes such a difference You’ll 
have to make one another’s acquaintance all over again 

Robert [Not without anxiety ] D’you think it’ll change 
Caroline much? I don’t know that I should wish that 
exactly You see I’m used to this Caroline 

Maude* She’ll be just the same, only more so 

Robert That is reassuring, but rather vague My idea 
would be rather to make a tour of the capitals of Europe 

Maude But you’d spend all your time in railway stations 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE I45 

Robert I know That is precisely where a man shows his 
superiority to a woman She is flustered and nervous 
She’s certain they’ll miss the train But he is calm He 
sees to the luggage nonchalantly He has the tickets 
safe. He keeps an eagle eye on the umbrellas This is a 
man — every inch of h im, she says, I am but a poor weak 
woman Believe me, those are very good lines on which 
to start married life I think the capitals of Europe 

Isabella Mv own impression is that Caroline will want to 
go to some quiet little place by the seaside 
Robert I don’t look my best in bathing costume 
Isabella She’ll want to be alone with you surely 
Robert I won’t bathe Nothing will induce me to bathe 
I hate cold water I was only thinking this morning 
how I hated the sea 

Maude [Surprised ] This morning Why^ 

Robert I don’t know It just occurred to me Haven’t you 
made up your mind sometimes in a weak moment tc 
go and have a bathe? You go down to the beach and 
the sea looks icy You try not to notice it You go into 
your bathing machine, and it’s cold and smelly But 
you take off your clothes and put on your bathing 
costume, and then you open the door and you see m 
front of you a narrow bit of sea And you wish you were 
dead 

[During this speech Maude and Isabella have first 
pricked up their ears , then stared at him , and, finally, 
they turn and look at one another with amazement 
Caroline comes m She is now charmingly gowned 
Robert How do you do? 

Caroline How d’you do^ 

Maude You absurd things 

Caroline. [Sharply ] Don’t be ridiculous, Maude. 

Isabella We really ought to be going, dear 



146 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT I 

Caroline Oh, aren’t you going to stay to luncheon^ 

Isabella [Obviously inventing] I’m lunching out So are 
you, Maude, aren’t you^ 

Maude Yes 

Caroline Oh, well, it’s early yet Don’t go 

Maude I’m so sorry, but I must go and be tried on It’s 
such a bore 

Isabella You might drop me, perhaps, I have an appoint- 
ment with my dentist Good-bye, darling 

Caroline Good-bye It’s been so nice to see you 

[They kiss one another 

Isabella Good-bye 

Maude [To Robert ] Dear Robert, we leave her in your 
care 

Isabella Dear, dear Robert 

[They go out 

Robert That’s how elephants must behave when they’re 
being tactful 

Caroline How is it you’re here so early? I wasn’t ex- 
pecting you till after the courts rose 

Robert Oh I managed to get away Maude said 
you were expecting me 

Caroline Yes, I was expecting you to tea Don’t you 
remember, you said yesterday you’d look in 

Robert I suppose I couldn’t have a whisky and soda? 

Caroline Yes, of course I’ll ring [She touches the bell ] 

Robert I’ve got to be back in chambers by one 

Caroline You must keep your eye on the time You 
mustn’t be late 

Robert [Making conversation ] What a nice woman Isabella 
is Pity she doesn’t get on with her husband 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE I47 

Caroline Oh, but she does, only she gets on better with 
him when he’s in India and she’s in England They’re 
devoted to one another from a distance 

Robert There’s something curiously feminine and sympa- 
thetic about her She’s not clever, but she’s extra- 
ordinarily restful I can imagine a man being extremely 
attached to Isabella 

Caroline She’s still quite pretty 

Robert But, of course, one doesn’t know what she’d be 
like to live with always Tint’s so different, isn’t it> 

Caroline {With conviction ] Oh, absolutely [Cooper corner 
in ] Bring up the whisky and soda, Cooper, and a glass 

Cooper Very good, madam. 

[Exit Cooper 

Robert It reminds me of the case I’m in just now Did 
you ever meet the Petersens^ 5 

Caroline I don’t think so 

Robert Quite a nice woman She was a Mrs Macdougai 
I’ve known Petersen for twenty years I’d never ha\e 
thought him capable of things like that 

Caroline What did he do^ 

Robert Oh, well, he’d been devoted to Mrs Macdougai 
for years It was an old-standing affair Everybody 
accepted it One always asked them to dinner together 
At last they persuaded Macdougai to let himself be 
divorced I’m acting for Mrs Petersen now 

Caroline I must be very stupid, but where does Mrs 
Petersen come^ You’ve not mentioned her before 

Robert Mrs Petersen was Mrs. Macdougai, you see, they 
got the divorce from Macdougai, then they married, 
and now they’re divorcing 

Caroline Oh, I see Of course Very natural How long 
have they been married? 



ACT I 


148 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Robert Eighteen months And now they can’t stand the 
sight of one another She says he’s dull when he’s sober 
and brutal when he’s drunk 

Caroline Ah* And what does he say? 

Robert He marvels at his self-control He can’t imagine 
why he never killed her 

[A short silence Cooper comes m with the whisky 
She goes out Robert helps himself 

Robert I did a very unprofessional thing I had a chat 
with Petersen in the club the other night I told him 
I couldn’t discuss the matter, but he insisted on telhng 
me that he had no ill-feeling towards me because I was 
appearing for his wife He said he only had himself 
to blame 

Caroline That was nice of him 

Robert Oh, he didn’t mean it like that He meant he ought 
to have known better than to marry her He said if a 
woman couldn’t get on with one husband you might 
bet your boots she wouldn’t get on with another 
[There is a momentary silence ] Very nice whisky this is 
of yours, Caroline 

Caroline You ought to like it You chose it 

[He takes out a cigarette and lights it elaborately, pre- 
tending he is quite at ease 

Robert So your husband has died at last, Caroline 

Caroline Yes 

Robert I suppose you don’t know what he died of? 

Caroline No, I have no idea 

Robert Fever, I suppose A man has to have a very fine 
physique to stand those climates indefinitely- 

Caroline Stephen had a very fine physique 

Robera I suppose 11 was a great surprise to you when you 
read the announcement in this morning’s Times? 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE I49 

Caroline Yes, it was 

Robert After all, death, even that of a person who was 
indifferent to you, is always a shock 

Caroline Yes, when a man is dead you seem only to 
remember his good qualities 

Robert It must be over ten years smce you’ve seen him 
I remember, when first I met you, you’d only been 
separated about three months You haven’t changed a 
bit in these ten years, Caroline 

Caroline I’m afraid that’s only your fancy You’ve seen 
me almost every day smce then, and you naturally 
wouldn’t notice any difference in me 

Robert That’s true In a way it’s been a wonderful ten 
years, Caroline We’ve found constant amusement in 
one another’s society You’ve been a great help to me 
You’ve seen me rise from a struggling junior to a pretty 
good position I don’t see why I shouldn’t be a judge 
before I die 

Caroline We’ve had some very good times together, 
haven’t we? 

Robert Wonderful! 

Caroline You’ve been a dear, Robert You’ve always been 
so kind and patient 

Robert It certainly hasn’t been hard to be either. 

Caroline And you’ve got certain points that are strangely 
endearing You never forget the little anniversaries that 
men find a bore to remember, but that women think 
so much of You never fail to send me a little present 
on my birthday Why, you even remember the day we 
first met and send me flowers Ten times you’ve done 
that, Robert 

Robert By George, if this had only happened ten years 
ago What a difference if would have made to us We 
should be quite an old married couple by now, Caroline. 



no 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


ACT I 


Caroline Do you wish it had? 

Robert What a question! Why, every day for ten years 
I’ve read the obituary column of The Times for that 
notice It added a savour to breakfast 

Caroline And now at last it’s come 

Robert I realize that I've lost for ever the little thrill of 
excitement that I always had when I took up the paper 
I’ve often wished that your name began with a V or 
a W instead of an A, so that I might be able to prolong 
the agony a little as I read deliberately down the column 

Caroline There’s always something a little melancholy in 
getting what one wants 

Robert Do you know, Caroline, I’ve never even seen a 
photograph of your husband 

Caroline I’m afraid I haven’t one When we separated I 
destroyed everything that could possibly remind me 
of him 

Robert I know I shall never even know what that man 
looked like, and yet he has influenced my life more 
than anyone else m the world What sort of a man was 
he, Caroline? 

Caroline An ordinary sort of man. 

Robert It’s rather queer if you come to think of it If he 
hadn’t lived I should have had an entirely different life, 
if he’d died years ago I should be another man from 
what I am now Just by existing, a thousand miles 
away, obscurely, he’s made me what I am 

Caroline Then we have at least something to be grateful 
to him for 

Robert Caroline, what a charming thing to say! 

Caroline I never thought of it before, but I suppose I, 
too, have been influenced by Stephen, even though I 
never set eyes on him I shouldn’t be what I am either 
but for him 



ACT I THE UNATTAINABLE IJX 

Robert Life is a strange business, Caroline* 

Caroline Pm beginning to think so 

| ‘ A short st knee 

Robert Well, I expect you’ve got a lot of things to do I 
mustn’t keep you 

Caroline And you have an appointment, haven’t yoiP 
You mustn’t be late for that 

Robert Oh, I’ve got my eye on the time 

Caroline Yes, I imagined you had 

Robert I thought I’d like to have a little chat with you 
at once 

Caroline It was kind of you to come, it’s been pleasant 
to see you 

Robert I’ll look in again about tea-time, may P 

Caroline Oh, yes, that’ll be nice I dare say I can get one 
or two people so that we can have a rubber of bridge 
before dinner 

Robert That always rests me after I’ve been in court 
Well, good-b} e, Caroline, God bless you 

Caroline Good-bye I hope you win your case 

Robert Thanks 

[He goes to the door and opens it She steps towards the 
hell to ring At the door he hesitates She looks at 
him and pauses He half shuts the door and meditates 
She withdraws her hand from the bell He opens the 
door again , and she stretches out her band one more 
He braces himself for the ordeal , shuts the door 
quickly and comes back into the room She turns 
away from the bell 

Robert [With assumed cheer fair ess ] I was almost forgetting 
the purpose of my visit 

Caroline Ohl Didn’t jou come just to pass the time 
of day? 



ACT 1 


1 52 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Robert Well, not exactly, I think 111 just have a little 
drop more whisky if you don’t mind I can’t imagine 
why my throat is so dry this morning 
Caroline I dare say there’s a touch of east m the wind 
Robert [Pouring out the whisky ] Well, Caroline, what shall 
we do about 1 t? 

Caroline About what? 

Robert [1 Very busy with the siphon ] When would you like 
us to be married? 

Caroline Well, I haven’t thought about the matter 
Robert We arranged that we would be as soon as your 
husband died 
Caroline Yes, I know 

Robert [With assumed facetiousness ] It only remains for you 
to name the day 

Caroline I’m not going to name one 
Robert My dear Caroline, you must That is by old 
established custom the privilege of your sex 
Caroline What day would you suggest? 

Robert Obstinate woman! I suppose you’ll want some 
time to get a trousseau And then banns take three 
weeks, don’t they? I couldn’t get away till the end of 
term, anyhow What about the beginning of the Long 
Vacation? 

Caroline I’m not going to marry you, Robert 
Robert Caroline! 

Caroline I’ve thought it over very carefully and I’ve 
completely made up my mind 
Robert Do you mean to tell me that nothing I can say 
will induce you to change it? 

Caroline [With a twinkle m her eyes ] No 
Robert This is an awful shock to me, Caroline This is 
an awful blow I’ve been living in hopes of this moment 



ACT I 


THE UNATTAINABLE 155 

for years, and now now . you could knock 
me down with a feather 

Caroline [With her tongue tn her cheek ] Fm soiry to cause 
you pain, Robert, but, believe me, I am acting for 
the best 

Robert Do you mean to say that you absolutely .refuse to 
marry me? 

Caroline Absolutely 

Robert [A little uneasily ] Caroline, has anything in my 
behaviour led you to imagine that my heart wasn’t set 
on marrying you^ Would your answer have been 
different if I had expressed myself differently^ Women 
are very strange Haven’t I been ardent enough^ You 
must remember that Fm a shy man This is an occasion 
when one may reasonably feel a certain embarrassment 
Fm no longer in my first youth, Caroline I should have 
felt ridiculous if I’d thrown myself on one knee and all 
that sort of thing I have had no wide and varied 
experience in making proposals of marriages 

Caroline Really In that case I can only congratulate you 
You made this one as though to the manner bom You 
were as cool as though you were ordering a dozen 
oysters and a pint of champagne 

Robert I didn’t feel it, Caroline I was shaking in every 
limb 

Caroline After all, you came to the point at once I’ve 
known men with whom it required months of patience 
on the part of the object of their affections to bring 
them to it 

Robert Then I cannot understand why you refused me 

Caroline My dear Robert, we’ve been very happy in one 
another’s company for ten years We’ve been joined 
together by a very charming sentiment Don’t you think 
it would be a pity to expose it to the wear and tear of 
domestic life* 



ACT I 


154 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Robert You’re a wonderful woman, Caroline 
Capoline Oh, it had occurred to you 
Robert It hadn’t exactly occurred to me, but it had crossed 
my mind After ail, one has to look at these things from 
a rational point of view We’re very well as we are 
Caroline It seems a pity to make a change 
Robert Not a pity, Caroline, a risk 
Caroline Then you agree that I was wise to refuse you^ 
Robert From your point of view, Caroline, I dare say 
there’s a great deal to be said in favour of your decision 
I, of course, could only have gained by the change 
Caroline It’s nice of you to say so But are you sure that 
you’re not a little relieved that I refused you^ 

Robert P My dear Caroline, can’t you see I’m over- 
whelmed with disappointment^ 

Caroline It’s not visible to the naked eye, Robert 
Robert You forget I have great power of self-control 
Caroline I shouldn’t be hurt if you confessed that at the 
bottom of your heart you were feeling as though you’d 
deliberately put your head in a noose, and then by a 
merciful interposition of Providence 
Robert [Interrupting ] Caroline, I have been wanting to 
marry you for years And now that the opportunity at 
last occurs you refuse me Well, I accept your reasons 
I bow to the inevitable I know you too well to try 
to make you change your mind, but don’t think because 
I take it like this that my heart isn’t 
Caroline Seared 

Robert Are you laughing at me, Caroline^ 

[He looks at her She begins to chuckle For a moment 
be assumes a pose of indignation She tries to restrain 
her laughter , but finds it impossible, he is gamed by 
it, and begins to laugh also Then thej both roar mi 
the tears run down their cheeks 



ACT I 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


*55 

Robert Caroline, you’re adorable 

Caroline You humbug, Robert 

Robert My dear, I had to do it And I’ve done it, mind 
you. I’ve done it 

Caroline Yes, you’ve done it And now we’ll forget all 
about it 

Robert You know, I was terrified, Caroline 

Caroline Poor dear, I know Your heart was in your 
boots, wasn’t it ? 

Robert You don’t bear me a grudge^ 

Caroline Of course not 

Robert You’re wonderful, Caroline Upon my soul, I 
could almost marry you 

Caroline Dearest, I could very nearly consent to be your 
wife. 

2ND OF THE FIRST ACT 



THE SECOND ACT 


The scene is the same 

It ts a little after four o’clock in the afternoon of the same day 

Caroline ts standing by the window looking out Cooper 
comes in 

Cooper Mrs Gilliatt has rung up to say she hopes you 
haven’t forgotten you’re going to tea with her at 
Rumplemeyer’s, madam 

Caroline I haven’t forgotten. Cooper But I haven’t the 
least intention of going 

Cooper I said I’d give you the message, ma’am, but I said 
I didn’t think you were feeling very well 

Caroline It hadn’t occurred to me, but I don’t think I am 
feeling very well I wish it would ram It’s so exas- 
perating when the weather doesn’t fit in with one’s 
moods 

Cooper Shall I ring up Mrs Gilliatt and say you’re sorry 
you can’t come to tea, ma’am 5 

Caroline Yes, I think I’ll he down. The more I think of 
it the more I think I’m not very well 

[She lies down on the sofa 

Cooper When one’s feeling like what you are, ma’am, it 
always makes one feel better not to feel very well 

Caroline [Smiling ] That’s rather confused. Cooper, but I 
believe it’s quite true Put a lot of cushions behind me 
[This Cooper does ] Thank you Now put the cigarettes 
where I can reach them 

Cooper [Fetching them ] Yes, madam. 

Caroline There are two books over there Let me have 

156 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE IJ7 

them, will yoiP Thank you And give me the picture 
papers There! 

Cooper Shall I cover up your feet, ma’am? 

Caroline You might put that Spanish shawl over them, 
Cooper It’s always satisfactory to look nice even if 
there’s no one to see you 

[Cooper carries out Caroline’s various directions 

Cooper There, ma’am Is there anything else** 

Caroline No I feel better already I’m not at home to 
anybody, and I won’t speak to anyone on the telephone 

Cooper Very good, ma’am 

Caroline I’m extremely pleased with my own society. 
Cooper It’s very nice to be alone when one wants to 
I like to think it’s my own house and nobody can cross 
my threshold without permission It’s really very 
pleasant to be one’s own mistress 

Cooper Some people like a man about the house, ma’am, 
and some people don’t 

Caroline I don’t 

Cooper Ah, well, ma’am, you’re one of the lucky ones, 
you can please yourself 

Caroline Cooper, what do you mean? You’re not dissatis- 
fied with your young man? 

Cooper No, ma’am, not exactly that But I don’t know as 
I’d marry him if I ’ad anything better to look forward to 

Caroline But you’re not obliged to marry him. Cooper 

Cooper Him or somebody else It’s not very satisfactory 
bemg in service all your life And it isn’t so easy tor a 
parlourmaid to find places when she’s getting on a 
bit 

Caroline Tell me. Cooper, how did he propose^ 

Cooper Well, ma’am, I don’t know as he exactly proposed 
at all You see, it was like this I’d been walking out 



THE UNATTAINABLE ACT II 

with him for something like two years, and he never said 
anything that you could take hold of, so to speak, so at 
last I said to him Well, what about it? What about 
what^ he said You know what I mean, I said I do 
not, he said Well, do you mean it or do you no t^ I 
said Is it a nddle^ he said No, I said, but I’ve been 
walking out with you for two years, and I just want to 
know if anything’s to come of it or not Oh, he said 
I don’t mind one way or the other, I said, but I’m not 
going to waste my time till doomsday, and I just want 
to know, that’s all Well, he said, what do you propose^ 
Well, I said, what about August Bank Holiday^ Make 
it Christmas, he said, I get a nse then All right, I said, 
as long as I know where I am I don’t mind waiting, 
but I like to know where I am 

Caroline It wasn’t very romantic. Cooper 

Cooper Well, ma’am, my belief is that men don’t want to 
marry It’s not in their nature You ’ave to give them 
a little push or you’ll never bring them to it 

Caroline And supposing they regret it afterwards. 
Cooper? 

Cooper Oh, well, ma’am, it’s too late then And you 
know, ma’am, they generally try to make the best of it 
when they know they can’t help themselves 

Caroline And let us look on the bnght side of things. 
Cooper, they’re often not unhappy, poor brutes 

Cooper Oh, no, ma’am, I think they’re much happier, but 
sometimes they won’t realize it, so to speak 

Caroline That’s human nature. Cooper You won’t forget 
to telephone to Mrs Gilhatt 

Cooper \Gomg ] No, ma’am. I’ll ring her up at once 

Caroline Oh, and Cooper, you might ring up Dr Cornish 
and ask him if he can come round 

Cooper I thought you were feeling better, ma’am? 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE 159 

Caroline I am, but I think it would comfort me to see a 
doctor To be able to talk about oneself without fear 
of interruption is cheap at half a guinea 
Cooper Very good, ma’am 

[Exit Caroline settles herself more comfortably than 
ever on the sofa, she takes one of the illustrated papers 
and begins to look at it The door ts qmetly opened , 
and Maude Fulton puts a roguish head round the 
corner 

Maude May I come in? 

Caroline Good heavens, how you startled me! 

Maude Say I may come in, Caroline 
Caroline No, you may not come in 
Maude [Edging herself m ] Don’t be brutal, Caroline 
Caroline I think I’ve got scarlet fever 
Maude [Opening the door a little more ] I’ve had it 
Caroline On the other hand, it may be small-pox 
Maude [Coming right in ] I’m constantly bemg vaccinated 
Caroline I’m not at home, Maude 
Maude I know, but I felt sure you’d see me Cooper 
didn’t want to let me come up 
Caroline Servants are not what they were She should only 
have let you force your way over her inanimate corpse 
Maude Darling, surely a corpse couldn’t be anything else 
but inanimate 

Caroline Just as an intruder couldn’t be anything else but 
intolerable 

Maude Now that you’ve had the last word, offer me a cup 
of tea and tell me all about it 
Caroline I shall not, Maude. 

Maude Now don’t be ridiculous, Caroline 1 felt I must 
see you You can’t expect me to be entirely devoid of 
curiosity 



ACT II 


x6o THE UNATTAINABLE 

Caroline After knowing you for twenty years? No, my 
dear, I don’t But, on the other hand, you can’t expect 
me to be such a fool as to gratify it 
Maude I naturally wanted to be the first to congratulate 
you [Insinuatingly ] Caroline, tell me now how he 
did it 

Caroline D’you think it’s fair to a man to tell a third 
party what romantic madness seized his tongue at such 
a moment? 

Maude [Eagerly ] Oh, my dear, go on. I’m thrilled to the 
core 

Caroline [She looks at her with an ironical smile ] I was 
standing in the middle of the room, Maude, and he 
came up to me, and fell on one knee 
Maude Yes, Sir Walter Raleigh 
Caroline He took my hand I turned a little away 
Maude Yes, yes 

Caroline At last, he said, at last! Oh, I have waited for 
this moment for a hundred years I know I am utterly 
unworthy of you, but I adore the very ground you tread 
on You are my ideal of woman Oh, Caroline, Caroline, 
will you be mine? Clarence, I said 
Maude Robert, you mean, surely 

Caroline [Bursting into laughter ] You fool, Maude Can 
you see Robert making such a perfect ass of himself? 
Maude Really, Caroline, you are exasperating 
Caroline Shall I tell you the honest truth? 

Maude [Acidly ] If you can. 

Caroline He fiddled about with a siphon, and said Well, 
when would you like to be married? 

Maude Ohi I prefer the other way, but after all it comes 
to the same in the end Darling, I congratulate you with 
all my heart 



ACT n THE UNATTAINABLE l6 j, 

Caroline On getting an offer at my time of life^ Thank 
you very much 

Maude Don’t be so silly On your engagement* 

Caroline But I’m not engaged 
Maude What are you talking about^ 

Caroline I refused him 
Maude Good heavens! Why^ 

Caroline I thought I should be happier if I remained a*> 
I was 

Maude Caroline, how cruel of youl How abominably 
selfish! But what did Robert say^ 

Caroline He was almost too much surprised for words 
Maude Wasn’t he overwhelmed ^ 5 

Caroline I could see it was a disappointment, but he did 
all he could not to make it more difficult for me 

Maude I can hardly believe my ears. What are you going 
to do, them 5 

Caroline I’m going to remain a widow And to make it 
quite clear, I shall go into mourning Crepe and v eeds 
and all the trappings of woe [Maude meditates for a 
moment , while Caroline watches her , wondering whether 
she accepts her account of the incident ] D’you think they’ll 
suit me^ 

Maude [Tartly ] If they don’t, I think you can be trusted 
not to wear them long 

Caroline I don’t see why you should be cross with me 
Maude I’m disappointed in you, Caroline, and I’m very, 
very, very sorry for Robert 
Caroline Marry him, then. 

Maude I’m not a m a r rying woman 
Caroline Neither am I Sisters in adversity* 

Maude Of course, he’ll ask you again 



ACT n 


162 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Caroline He’s not such a fool 

Maude What do you mean by that^ 

Caroline [Seeing that she has nearly given herself away ] He 
knows he can go on asking me till he’s blue in the 
face and I shall say no 

Maude Then there’s nothing more to be said 

Caroline Nothing 

[Cooper comes in to announce Dr Cornish This is 
a very stout > redfaced , jovial gentleman , with an 
optimistic view of life 

Cooper Dr Cornish 

Caroline How do you do^ Cooper, did you send that 
message^ 

Cooper Yes, ma’am Mrs Giliiatt said she’d just heard the 
dreadful news, and it must be a terrible shock and she 
quite understood, you had her sincerest sympathy, and 
she hoped you wouldn’t forget that you were playing 
bridge with her to-morrow afternoon 

Caroline Thank you 

[Exit Cooper 

Caroline [Turning to Dr Cornish ] Now I can attend to 
you 

Dr Cornish That’s what I’ve come to do to you 

Caroline You know Miss Fulton^ 

Dr Cornish [Shaking hands with her ] A homeopath, I 
believe 

Maude Oh, no, I’ve given that up But I’ve got a wonderful 
bone-setter that I go to now 

Dr Cornish Dear me, have you been breaking your 
bones^ 

Maude No, but I might 

Dr Cornish I can recommend a very competent motor- 
omnibus if you are looking for something to tun over 
you 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE 163 

Caroline Now, Maude, Dr Cormsh has come to see me 
professionally You’ve stayed quite long enough 
Maude Are you lU, darling 5 

Caroline I shall know that when Dr Cornish has examined 
me 

Maude I thought you weren’t looking quite up to the 
mark Of course I’ll go 

Caroline And don’t come back till you’re sent for 
Maude Dear Caroline It’s lucky I know she’s devoted to 
me, or I might take offence at some of the things she 
says to me Good-bye, Dr Cornish 
Dr Cornish [Shaking hands with her ] Does the bone-setter 
make love to you 5 
Maude Not more than most men 

[. Ext * 

Dr Cornish Now, dear lady, what is the matter with you 5 
Caroline Ill-temper 

Dr Cornish An ailment very distressing to ladies’ maids, 
I’ve always understood I noticed you were suffering 
from it 

Caroline I didn’t send for you so that you might have the 
pleasure of making yourself disagreeable and earning 
half a guinea into the bargain 
Dr Cornish It does seem unfair, doesn’t it 5 Let me feel 
your pulse 

Caroline [As he takes her wrist ] There’s nothing wrong 
with my body It’s my mind 
Dr Cornish What is amiss with that 5 
C \roline. Well, for one thing I don’t know it 

Dr Cornish The British Empire is governed exclusively 
by gentlemen who suffer from the same complaint You 
mustn’t let that worry you 

Caroline I’m vexed and bored 



ACT II 


164 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Dr Cornish Has this got anything to do with the announce- 
ment I read in this morning’s paper* I can well under- 
stand that the loss of a husband might cause any woman 
a momentary vexation 

Caroline No, I don’t think it’s that I’ve just redecorated 
my dinin g-room, and I don’t think it’s quite a success 
And, you know, these new fashions don’t suit me I’m 
not pleased with any of the clothes I bought this spring 
I dare say I’m a little run down and want a change of air 

Dr Cornish Quite so Quite so Now tell me the truth 

Caroline But I’m telling you the truth 

Dr Cornish Yes, I know, but the true truth Women 
make such distinction between the two 

Caroline [Smiling] You must have a very large practice. 
Dr Cornish 

Dr Cornish I get along Now come, dear lady 

Caroline I sent for you because I wanted to tell you the 
truth I’ve known you so long, and I can trust you 
You know, I’m devoted to Robert Oldham I’ve wanted 
to marry him ever since we first met And now that 
the opportunity has come, I don’t want to 

Dr Cornish I see 

Caroline Of course, nobody knows Robert thinks I’m 
dying to marry him And all my friends You see, it 
was an understood thing that we should marry as soon 
as I was free He’s waited for me all these years 

Dr Cornish It’s awkward, isn’t it? I can see that Robert 
Oldham will think you a little unreasonable He’s no 
longer a young man 

Caroline That is what I said to myself I thought the 
aiatter over from every standpoint I remembered 
Robert’s infinite patience, his devotion and self-sacrifice, 
and I made up my mind that it was my duty to marry 



KCT II THE UNATTAINABLE 

Dr Cornish It’s hard to speak of duty in these matters, 
but if you ask my opinion, in this particular case I think 
you’re right 

Caroline He came here this morning I discovered that he 
didn’t want to marry me m the least 

Dr Cornish Well, that simplifies matters, 

Caroline It does nothing of the kind I was prepared to 
sacrifice myself I’d made up my mind to an act of 
renunciation I’d promised myself that he should never, 
never know the truth You don’t think it’s pleasant to 
realize suddenly that you’re not wanted, and you can 
keep your self-sacrifice It’s enough to make any woman 
feel not very well 

Dr Cornish Now, don’t work yourself up into a scene 
dear lady 

Caroline Why not? 

Dr Cornish I’ve seen so many I assure you they have no 
effect on me at all 

Caroline In that case it isn’t worth while, is it? But it is 
vexatious. Dr Cornish, isn’t it^ 

Dr Cornish Very 

Caroline Upon my word I could almost wish my husband 
were alive agam [No sooner are the words out of her 
mouth than the telephone hell rings ] Good heavens, how it 
startled me! I told Cooper I wouldn’t speak to anyone 
Oh, I know what it is It’s my solicitor They’re had 
the answer to my cable [She takes up the receiver and 
listens ] Yes Lester and Lester^ I was expecting you 
to ring me up Yes, I’ll hold on [To Dr Cornish J 
They’re putting me through to Sir Henry Oh, the 
suspense! You know. I’ve had two or three false alarm g 
of Stephen’s death before Oh, if he’s only alive this 
time it’ll make such a difference It’ll put an end to all 
my difficulties [Speaking into the receiver 1 Yes Sir 



1 66 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT II 

Henryk You haven’t had an answer to your cabled 
Then Oh* [To Dr Cornish ] He's seen Stephen's 
solicitor [Listening ] I see Thank you very much It 
was kmd of you to ring me up Good-bye 

[She puts down the receiver 

Dr Cornish WelP 

Caroline Stephen’s solicitor has had a further cable from 
Nairobi It appears my husband died in the hospital 
there four days ago of cirrhosis of the liver Is that the 
sort of disease he would die fronP 

Dr Cornish You must know that better than I I never 
knew him* 

Caroline Could brandy bring it oiP 

Dr Cornish Nothing better 

Caroline Then that settles it There can be no more doubt 
I’m free 

Dr Cornish Don’t say it so despondently It’s a condition 
that most married people aspire to 

Caroline Doesn’t it strike you that there’s something dis- 
tressingly obvious in being a widow^ I can quite under- 
stand why a more delicate civilization than ours ordered 
the immolation of widows on their husband’s pyre 

Dr Cornish My dear lady, you take too gloomy a view of 
the situation From the days of the ancients a certain 
gaiety has been ascribed to the condition which you 
now adorn 

Caroline I refuse to be gay My husband spited me for ten 
years by living, now he spites me more than ever before 
by dying 

Dr Cornish D’you know what’s the matter with you^ 

Caroline If you say appendicitis I’ll kill you 

Dr Cornish I wish I could, for that is an ailment which 
can be cured by a trifling operation But there’s no 
escape from the malady I have in mind There’s no cure 



4.CT II THE UNATTAINABLE l 6 j 

There are no palliatives even The most eminent 
physician in the world can do no more than offer sym- 
pathy and consolation 

Caroline My dear Dr Cornish, you freeze the very marrow 
in my bones Tell me what it is quickly I will brace 
myself to bear the worst. 

Dr Cornish Middle age 

Caroline Say that again. 

Dr Cornish Middle age 

Caroline Impossible’ Oh, impossible! 

Dr Cornish Let me suggest one or two symptoms to you 
Haven’t you noticed lately how young the policemen 
are about the streets^ Why, they’re mere boys But 
when you were a girl, don’t you remember, they were 
middle-aged men 

Caroline Now that you come to speak of it I have noticed 
that the policemen are very young nowadays 

Dr Cornish And when you’re in a house part}, haven’t 
you noticed that some of the young people are really 
very rowdy^ It’s lucky they keep more or less to them- 
selves because their conversation really is very tedious 

Caroline But it ts very tedious 

Dr Cornish It’s just the same as it was fifteen years ago, 
and you didn’t find it so then 

Caroline You’re beginning to frighten me 

Dr Cornish You’re devoted to dancing, aren’t you^ 

Caroline {Brightly ] Passionately That, at ail events, hasn’t 
left me 

Dr Cornish But don’t you find by about one m the morn- 
ing you’re rather tired and quite ready to go horned 

Caroline I naturally don’t want to be a wreck next day 

Dr Cornish Were you a wreck nest day fifteen years ago? 



ACT II 


l68 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Caroline I used to be able to sleep till twelve o’clock nest 
morning 

Dr Cornish And now you can’P I know At whatever 
time you go to bed you awake about eight, don’t jovfi 
One does, you know, as one grows older 
Caroline Pm beginning to feel a hundred 
Dr Cornish You mustn’t take it too hardly Things 
haven’t gone very far yet 
Caroline \Lromcally ] Thank you so much 
Dr Cornish Perhaps you’ve noticed one white hair on 
your head, and you’ve said to your friends I’m sure I 
shall be prematurely grey 
Caroline Are you enjoying this, Dr Cornish? 

Dr Cornish It’s not so tragic as you think 
Caroline Middle age^ 

Dr Cornish It’s true there are no remedies Rouge, dye, 
powder and pencil are not even palliatives, they merely 
emphasize the obvious 

Caroline Y ou have nothing to recommend but resignation^ 
Dr Cornish I can offer comfort 
Caroline [Shaking her head ] No 

Dr. Cornish Dear lady, it’s the happy time of a man’s life 
You have learnt your limitations They are like a pack 
of cards, with which the skilful conjuror can do a 
hundred tricks Passion no longer holds you enslaved 
You go your way and attach no more importance to 
the opinion of your fellows than is seemly You are 
sound in wind and limb and you are free Good heavens, 
when I was young I did things I didn’t want to because 
other people did Now I do what I like I wear the 
clothes I fancy, and don’t ask myself if they’re the 
fashion. When I’m tired I go to bed When I’m bored 
I betake myself to my own counsel Believe me, middle 
age is very pleasant, A book, a glass of wine, and 



ACT n THE UNATTAINABLE 169 

Amaryllis sporting in the shade, while I — bask m 
the sun 

Caroline Is it because Fm middle-aged that Robert no 
longer wants to marry me ? 

Dr Cornish Not at all I was explaining why you no 
longer wanted to marry him 

Caroline [Taking a little mirror out of her hag and looking a* 
herself in it] I see myself no different from what I was 
yesterday or ten years ago 

Dr Cornish You’re a very charming and a very fascinating 
woman 

Caroline I was never beautiful At my best I was no more 
than pretty, but I’ve been quite content with that 
People have found me amusing 

Dr Cornish None more than I 

Caroline I’ve never lacked admiration • It’s been the 
breath of my nostrils, Dr Cornish If all that is to go, 
what is there left 5 Chanty and good works 5 You talk 
like a man. You talk like a fool You don’t know what 
middle age is to a woman It’s very hard It gives me 
such a pain in my heart [She begins to cry a little Dr 
Cornish watches her with not unkindly amusement ] You’re 
not going to charge me for this, are you 5 That would 
be more than I could bear 

Dr Cornish On the contrary, I’m gomg to charge you 
double A doctor is only supposed to give drugs, but 
I’ve given you common sense [Caroline gives a little 
cry ] What is the matter 5 

Caroline May your hair fall out in bushels, and all your 
teeth rattle from your palsied gums May your joints 
ache with rheumatism and your toes tingle with gout 
May you wheeze and snore like an overfed pug, and 
blow like a ridiculous grampus. 

Dr. Cornish Mercyl 



I JO THE UNATTAINABLE ACT II 

Caroline What a fool I am to let mvself be harassed by 
you We’re nothing in ourselves We’re what other 
people think we are I’ve just thought of Rex 

Dr Cornish Who the dickens is Rex? 

Caroline Rex is passion and youth and love To him, at 
all events, I’m young and charming He loves me 

Dr Cornish Ho, ho! 

Caroline [Going to the telephone ] Mayfair 2315 Rex? D’you 
know who it is? [She makes her voice as seductive as she 
knows how ] What are you doing? Idle creature Under 
the circumstances Under what circumstances? 
Would you like to come and dine with me to-night? 
[Her face changes ] Engaged? You’ve never been engaged 
before when I’ve asked you Can’t you break the 
engagement? Oh, of course, if there’s any difficulty you 
mustn’t think of it Anyhow, come round and see me 
now, we’ll drink a dish of tea together Very well [She 
puts down the receiver ] He’s coming at once 

Dr Cornish What are you gomg to do? 

Caroline I? Oh, I’m gomg to tell him that I’ve refused 
Robert 

Dr Cornish And then? 

Caroline [Smiling ] Then we’ll see 

[She draws a long, triumphant breath It is obvious that 
she expects the young man then to fling hts passionate 
heart at her feet 

Dr Cornish My advice to you is to marry Robert Oldham 

Caroline He doesn’t want to marry me. 

Dr Cornish Nag him a little 

Caroline Wffiy should I marry him? He’s not young I 
don’t believe we’re suited to one another 

Pr Cornish You try You’ll find you’ll jog along quite 
comfortably 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE 1 J 1 

Caroline Good heavens* I don't want to jog along I want 
poetry, passion, romance 

Dr Cornish [Soothingly ] Yes I think I'll write you a little 
prescription I dare say a gentle sedative will do you 
no harm 

Caroline [As he prepares to sit down ] You can write as 
many prescriptions as you like, but if you think Fm 
going to take your beastly medicine you’re verv much 
mistaken 

Dr Cornish [Writing] Human emotion is a queer busi- 
ness Has it ever struck you that with a few grams of 
one drug you can make the timid heroic, and with a few 
grams of another the romantic, matter-of-fact You can 
make the femme incompnse satisfied with her lot and the 
adventurer content to stick to his desk You have read 
that the history of the world would have been different 
if Cleopatra’s nose had been longer My dear, I have 
no doubt that if Cleopatra had been treated with valerian 
and massage she would never have made such a fool 
of herself at the Battle of Actium, and Fm convinced 
that with the administration of a certain amount of 
strychnine and iron I could have persuaded Antony that 
it wasn’t worth while to lose an empire for her sake 
Take this three times a day after meals You’ll find it’ll 
do you a lot of good 

Caroline I don’t want to be done good to 

[Cooper comes in 

Cooper Mrs Trench has called, ma’am 

Caroline Fm not at home. Cooper 

Cooper I said you were not at home, ma’am, but Mrs. 
Trench says you telephoned for her to come at once* 

Caroline I? I did no such thing 

Cooper. What shall I say, ma’am? 

Caroline I suppose she must come up 



172 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT II 

Cooper Very good, ma’am. 

[Exit 

Dr Cornish Well, good-bye, dear lady, 

Caroline I’m twenty-five, Dr Cornish Romance is on 
the way to my door m a two-seater 
Dr Cornish Send it away, and let common sense come 
trundling along in a four-wheeler 
Caroline Never Good-bye 

[Dr Cornish goes out In a moment Isabella comes 
tn with Maude Fulton 

Caroline I’m delighted to see you, Isabella, but I can’t 
make out what you mean by saying I telephoned 
Maude I telephoned 
Caroline You! 

Maude I think it’s absurd that you should refuse Robert 
Oldham I sent for Isabella so that we might talk it 
over 

Caroline May I ask what business it is of Isabella V 
Isabella My dear, when your friends see you about to 
make a terrible mistake, they wouldn’t be friends if they 
didn’t do everything they could to save you from it 
Caroline I take it that you’ve talked the matter out 
downstairs 

Maude I put the case before Isabella as I saw it 
Isabella I can hardly believe it even now It’s the most 
astounding thing I’ve ever heard in my life 

Caroline I hope you’ve had a pleasant chat Now I will 
ask you both to go away I’m going to he down 

Maude [Sitting down firmly ] No, Caroline, we will not go 
till you’ve heard what we have to say 

Isabella Tnere must be some misunderstanding It only 
requires a little good-will and everything can be put 
right 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE 173 

Caroline Robert and I understand one another only too 
well 

Isabella I wonder if you haven’t known him so long that 
you’ve ceased to realize what a very attractive man 
he is 

Caroline [A little surprised ] Do you find him so^ 

Isabella He’s one of the most charming men I’ve ever 
met 

Caroline Oh* 

Isabella He’s very handsome He has charming eves 

Caroline Ah! That’s just what he says about you 

Isabella [Pleased] Really^ Do tell me what he says 

Caroline What a pity you can’t marry him yourself, 
Isabella! 

Isabella Oh, I! He’s never had eyes for anybody when 
you’ve been there 

Caroline Not till to-day But then I’m not always there, 
am P 

Isabella What do you mean, Caroline^ You’re speaking 
quite acidly 

Caroline Oh, nothing 

Maude All that is neither here nor there You can’t afford 
to refuse Robert You’ve been a good deal talked about 
in connection with Robert Oldham, but your friends 
have been exceedingly sympathetic owing to the peculiar 
circumstances But honestly you owe it to them just 
as much as to yourself to marry the man as soon as 
you can 

Caroline I’m going to marry to please myself, not to 
please my friends 

Maude Besides, it’s high time you settled down 

Caroline Upon my word, I don’t know why 

Maude. You’re no chicken, Caroline. 


G 



174 tHE UNATTAINABLE ACT II 

Caroline At all events, I’m younger than you darling 
Maude A widow is as old as her possible husband, a 
spinster is as young as her latest young man 
Caroline Then if I choose a husband at all I’ll choose one 
vounger than Robert 

Isabella My dear, he’s a perfect age Everyone knows that 
young men think of nothing but themselves It’s the 
man of forty-five who makes much of you 
Maude Dear Caroline, I think the time has arrived to be 
frank 

Caroline Good heavens, haven’t you been frank hitherto^ 
Maude I’ve been doing my best to spare your feelings 
Caroline I hadn’t noticed it 

Maude I’m afraid I shall have to make myself a little 
unpleasant 

Caroline For my good or for your own satisfaction^ 
Maude By a merciful interposition of providence in these 
matters one can generally combine the two I feel it 
my duty to tell you the whole truth 
Caroline Will it take very long ? 

Maude Why^ 

Caroline Only that I’m expecting Rex in a minute or two, 
and I’m afraid I must ask you to leave me when he 
comes 

Maude That’s a very strange request 
Caroline He has asked to see me alone 
Maude What does he wanP 

Caroline I’m sure I don’t know I’m filled with curiosity 
Maude I won’t conceal from you that I’m surprised, 
Caroline 

Caroline Are you^ 

Maude Yes, you see, I told him you were engaged to 
Robert Oldham. 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE I75 

Caroline [Indignantly ] You didn’t How dare you! Really, 
Maude, you take too much upon yourself It’s mon- 
strous I will not let you interfere with my affairs in this 
way It’s too monstrous 

Maude Well, I thought you would be And what’s more, 
you ought to be 

Caroline I’ll never forgive you How dare you? How 
dare youS 

Isabella [At the window ] Here he is, 

Caroline Rex^ 

Isabella He’s just driven up 

Maude I’m not going, Caroline We must thrash this 
matter out thoroughly While Rex is here Isabella and 
I will have a cup of tea in your boudoir 

Caroline [ Ironically ] Make yourselves at home, won’t youS 

Maude Come, Isabella 

Caroline [Furiously ] If you’d like an egg to your tea, mind 
you order it 

[The two ladies go out Caroline hurriedly looks at 
herself m the glass , arranges her hair a little > powders 
her nose , and settles herself down tn a becoming attitude 
with a book She is careful to arrange her shrt so 
that it shall make a graceful line Cooper shows m 
Rex Cunningham 

Cooper Mr Cunningham 

[Exit. 

Caroline [Very affably ] How nice of you to come, 

Rex I thought I was never going to see you again 

Caroline Good heavens, whyS 

Rex [With a shrug of the shoulders ] Let me congratulate you 
on your engagement 

Caroline D’you mean that my engagement entails the 
breaking of our friendships 



ACT II 


176 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Rex Don’t j ou know how I’ve felt for you ever since I 
knew you^ D’you think I have no hearth 
Caroline No, I don’t think that You are romance, 
youth, passion 

Rex I could bear to think of you as the wife of a man 
I’d never seen He was far away, and I knew you didn’t 
care for him But now it’s quite different 
Caroline You’ve known always that I was deeply attached 
to Robert 

Rex If you knew how I’ve suffered 
Caroline Don’t, Rex, you break my heart 
Rex And I shall go on suffering I know myself I know 
what tortures I’m capable of I’ve got that nature But 
what must be, must be The only thing is, I beseech you 
not to ask me to go on seeing you 
Caroline But I’m very fond of you 
Rex You say that because you have a kind heart You’ll be 
happy with the man you love I shall only be m the way 
Say good-bye to me and let me go I’m seeing you now 
for the last time I shall never get over it My life is 
blighted But at all events let me spare you the sight of 
my torment Let me suffer in silence and in solitude 
Caroline What would you say if I told you that I’d 
refused to marry Robert OldhanP 
Rex You^ But Miss Fulton told me you were engaged 
Caroline She was mistaken 
Rex [Loo fang at her blankly ] My hat! 

Caroline [A little surprised ] Aren’t you pleased* 

Rex Why did you refuse hinP 

Caroi ine I suppose because I didn’t love him enough 
Rex Are you quite sure you’re wise^ 

Caroline I beg your paraon^ I didn’t expect you to ask me 
that question! 



ACT II 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


*77 


Rex I’m thinking of your happiness 
Caroline It may be that my happiness lies elsewhere 
Rex [Not without embarrassment ] After all, you’ve known 
Robert Oldham a great many years, haven’t yoP 
Caroline Not so many as all that 

Rex He’s a very good chap None better He’s by way of 
being distinguished too I always feel rather insignificant 
beside him 

Caroline One might almost think you wanted me to 
marry him 

Rex It would break my heart You know that. 

Caroline But 

Rex Looking at it entirely from y our point of view I can’t 
help seemg it would be the best tlung 
Caroline It’s nice of you to be so anxious for my welfare 
Rex That has been my first thought ever since I first saw you 
Caroline It’s rare to find such unselfishness in a man 
Rex I’m so accustomed to being absolutely wretched 
Caroline [With a flash of insight ] Are you sure you don’t 
rather like lP 

Rex P Do you know how many sleepless nights I’ve spent 
on your account^ 

Caroline And I felt so sorry for you, poor dear Tell me, 
has nobody ever been in love with yoP 
Rex I suppose so But, I don’t know why, it’s always 
bored me stiff 

Caroline I’m beginning to see daylight You thrive on 
hopeless passion, my poor friend 
Rex I don’t know what you mean If you thmk that 

I haven’t been perfectly smcere in all I’ve said to you 

Caroline [. Interrupting ] Oh, I’m sure you have But 
hasn’t my greatest attraction been that I didn’t return 
your love^ 



ACT ir 


173 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Rex I never expected to hear you say such things to me, 
Caroline 

Caroline My dear, I don’t blame you We’re as we’re 
made You are the unhappy lover I was a donkey not 
to see it before 

Rex You make me feel an awful fool, Caroline 
Caroline Don’t grudge me that little bit of satisfaction 
By the way, where are you dining to-night ^ 5 
Rex Isabella asked me to eat a chop with her 
Caroline It crossed my mind that it might be she Dear 
Isabella You’ll like her so much as you get to know her 
more She has a husband in India and she’ll never do 
anything to cause him any real uneasiness but she has a 
very tender heart and an unlimited amount of sympathy 

Rex Caroline, vou don’t think for a moment ? 

Caroline No, but I recommend it You see, now I’ve 
discovered that nothing can distress you more than 
to have your passion returned, I’m afraid I shan’t 
succeed in being as sympathetic as you have the right to 
expect 

Rex You’re unjust to me, Caroline It’s not my fault if 
I’m only really happy when I’m utterly miserable. 
Caroline I’m so glad I’m not But it takes all sorts to make 
a world 

Rex And you know, they never give me a chance They’re 
quite impossible 
Caroline Who^ 

Rex Women 

Caroline They will fall on your neck, I suppose They’re 
affectionate creatures 

Rex They’re always wanting to sacrifice themselves 
Caroline I nearly did myself, Rex 
Rex They’re so selfish They never will let a man be self- 
sacrificing and all that sort of thing Why shouldn’t a 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE I79 

man be an object of pi ty? I want to deny myself, I want 
to stand aside, I can suffer in silence I’m made like that 

Caroline Not quite in silence, Res But I’m keeping you, 
and I’m sure you have a hundred things to do Good- 
bye 

Rex No one will ever understand me Good-bye [He 
goes to the door , opens it, and pauses a moment ] And \ou 
know, Caroline a woman is more desirable when she’s 
unattainable 

[Exit 

Caroline [A sudden light dawning upon her ] A true word! 
[Pause ] My hat* 

[Maude Fulton and Isabella. Trench come w m 

Maude We heard him go 

Caroline Heavens, I’d forgotten all about you [To 
Isabella] Well, my dear, you’ve not been wasting 
your time with Rex, have you? He thinks you have 
charming blue eyes too 

Isabella Caroline, what do you mean 5 

Caroline It appears he’s dining with you to-mght 

Isabella I merely asked him because he seemed unhappy, 

Caroline Unhappy^ Why, he enjoys being unhappy I 
give him to you, Isabella, since you want him 

Isabella [Outraged] OhI 

Caroline You’ll just suit him You’ll listen to all his 
protestations of affection, and you’ll weep little salt 
tears of sympathy when he tells you he adores you 
And you’ll give him to understand that your husband 
doesn’t appreciate you And you’ll be dreadfully sorry 
for him And I can trust you not to go an inch further 
than is quite safe You mustn’t do that because it’ll put 
him out dreadfully The last thing he wants is to have his 
feelings reciprocated. 



i8o 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


ACT II 


Isabella [Beginning to cry \ I never thought you’d say such 
things to me 

Maude Caroline, you’ve asked him to marry you and he’s 
refused 

Caroline Oh, I haven’t Really that’s too much I’ve 
never been so insulted [She begins to cry also ] Oh, I hate 
you, Maude, I hate you! 

Maude Caroline! 

Caroline You’re a spiteful, envious cat 
Maude You’ve got no right to say such things to me I’ve 
only aimed at your good 

[She begins to cry They all three sob angrily for a minute , 
then all three take their bags and pull out their 
mirrors 

Isabella Oh, my dear, what a fright I look 
Caroline Good heavens! I look a perfect sight 
Maude Crying doesn’t suit me one bit 

[These three speeches are said together , then all three take 
their puffs and powder their noses While they are 
busily engaged Cooper comes in 
Cooper Mr Oldham has called, ma’am 
Caroline Not at home 

Cooper He said he’d come by appointment, ma’am 
Maude That’s quite right Show him up. Cooper 
Cooper Very good, miss 

f Exit 

Caroline What d’you mean, Maude^ 

Maude I sent for him 

Caroline Abominable woman! I’m speechless* Maude, 
you abominable woman! 

Maude I don’t care if you’re angry The matter can’t be 
left like this, and something’s got to be done 
Caroline [Making for the door ] I won’t see him 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE iSl 

Maude But he’s here now 

Caroline Get rid of him, then You think he’s charming, 
Isabella, take him too 

Isabella He’ll never go without seeing you. 

Caroline Then I’ll tell you why I refused him — because he 
didn’t want to marry me I saw his heart sink as the 
words were wrung out of him by his sense of decency 
He asked me only because he felt he must 

Maude Oh, what nonsense! I oughtn’t to have left you 
alone Y ou’re a pair of children I dare say he was a little 
nervous, and I’m sure you were 

Caroline There’s no doubt that he was If you’d seen the 
amount of whisky he took! Dutch courage to propose 
to me! Are you going to ask him now to marry me out of 
pity! I dare say he’s already got a ticket for the South Sea 
Islands in his pocket 

Isabella Everyone knows that Robert has worshipped the 
ground you trod on for ten years It’s incredible that 
now, when he can at last achieve his greatest wish, he 
shouldn’t want to 

Caroline You idiot, Isabella, don’t you know that the only 
thing men want is the unattainable^ 

Maude I suppose you’re quite sure that he did propose^ 

Caroline You may be quite certain that I wouldn’t have let 
him out of the room before he did I have my self- 
respect to think of 

Maude Perhaps you didn’t make yourself alluring enough 

Caroline I made myself as allurmg as I knew how 

Maude You should have waited till the evening A good 
dinner and a bottle of champagne have a wonderful 
effect on the masculine heart 

Is abella And no woman is so attractive that sne’s not 
improved by shaded lights and an evening frock. 



ACT II 


182 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Caroline I didn’t want him to come this morning You 
did it I knew very well that no man feels like marriage 
before luncheon 

Maude I thought Robert was an exceptional man 

Caroline No man’s an exceptional man You must know 
that by now 

Isabella What is he doing all this tirne^ 5 

Caroline Making up his mind to face the music I won’t 
come out of my room till he’s gone 

[She flings out of the room The two ladies are left 
astounded 

Maude Well 1 

Isabella Dear Caroline is rather hard sometimes She 
should show more tenderness 

[Cooper ushers m Robert Oldham and then goes out 

Cooper Mr Oldham 

Robert I just asked Cooper to give me a drink Is Caroline 
not here ? Good afternoon [Silence ] Is anything the 
matter^ When I came out of court my clerk gave me a 
message that I was to come at once on a matter of the 
greatest importance 

Maude I sent the message I’m not pleased with you, 
Robert 

Robert How changeable you are It’s only a few hours ago 
since you insisted on kissing me 

Maude This is no time for flippancy 

Robert My dear Maude, if conscience took a human shape, 
I am convinced she would take yours Relieve me, 
nothing is further from me than flippancy 

Maude Then your conscience is troubling you* 

Robert I never said so It’s perfectly at ease. 

Maude In that case your remark was senseless 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE 183 

Robert [Desperately] Oh, heavens! I was only trying to be 
funny 

Maude I should have thought you knew enough about 
cross-examination to realize that it was an extremely 
damaging admission 

Robert Good God, woman, don’t bully me What is the 
matter* 

Maude [Impressively ] What have you done to Caroline* 
Robert P I don’t understand what you mean* 

Maude When we came here, Isabella and I, to congratulate 
her, we found Caroline in a state of complete collapse 
Isn’t that so, Isabella* 

Isabella [A little doubtfully ] Yes, Maude 
Maude She was crying her eyes out Her maid told us that 
she’d had one fainting fit after another The sal volatile 
bottle was empty Isn’t that so, Isabella* 

Isabella [Very uncomfortably] Yes, Maude 
Maude We had to send for the doctor. He says her 
condition is most alarming, and it’ll be a miracle if she 
escapes brain fever 
Robert Good God! 

Maude I repeat, what have you done to Caroline* 

Robert Nothing I asked her to marry me 

Maude Ah! That confirms Caroline’s statement, Isabella 
And she refused Weren’t you a little surprised* 

Robert My dear Maude, surprised isn’t the word I was 
staggered I’m reeling under the blow still 

Maude It must have seemed incomprehensible 

Robert Imagine For ten years I’ve longed for the 
moment when I might be able to ask her to be my wife 
It has been my dearest hope There was nothing in the 
world I wanted more She shatters all my expectations 
at a blow At the moment it seems to me that I have 



i $4 the unattainable ACT II 

nothing left to live for I suppose I shall get over it in 
time, but 

Maude Why don’t you ask her agaim* 

Robert She made me understand that her decision was 
quite irrevocable And, after all, my pride is deeply hurt 
1 cannot expose myself a second time to so monstrous a 
humiliation 

Maude Fiddle! 

Robert Really, Maude, I think you might show me some 
sympathy in the bitterest disappointment of my life 

Maude My dear friend, Caroline refused you because you 
showed her very plainly that you didn’t want to marry 
her 

Robert Oh, what nonsense! Everyone knows I wanted to 
marry her 

Maude You asked her as though it was a duty you owed 
her A woman of spirit would naturally refuse I would 
have refused you myself 

Robert Isabella, everyone knows Maude is a terrible liar 
Tell me, is there a word of truth in what she says? 

Isabella Perhaps you didn’t quite realize that a woman 
doesn’t like these things arranged in too matter-of-fact a 
way You should have made love to her I’m sure you 
do it very well 

Robert [Sitting down beside her] What makes you think 
that^ 

Isabella That is the sort of thing that every woman 
knows 

Robert What intuition you have, Isabella 

Isabella [. Putting her hand on bis ] I know you love her, 
Robert 

Robert [Taking her hand] I’m devoted to her 

Isabella Let a charming story have a charming end 



ACT n THE UNATTAINABLE 18? 

Robert I wonder if she really cares for me, Isabella 
Isabella Oh, how can you doubt it? Women are faithful 
creatures, Robert 

Robert Fidelity is not the characteristic which I have 
found most conspicuous in them in my practice at the 
Bar 

Isabella D’you know that Caroline is jealous of you* 
Robert Oh, come, what makes you think that* 

Isabella She’s furious with me Of course, I know she’s 
not quite herself to-day, but she’s been unkind to me 
It appears that you told her I had charming blue eyes 
Robert So you have 

Isabella You ought to have said it to me I should have 
understood I’m afraid she took it amiss 
Robert You would understand anything 
Isabella I suppose I have a natural gift of sympathy Of 
course, Caroline is charming, but she ts a little lacking in 
tenderness sometimes, don’t you think so* 

Robert That is your most exquisite trait 
Maude Really, Isabella, I don’t know what you think 
you’re domg 

Isabella [With some asperity ] My dear, I wish you’d let me 
do things in my own way 

Maude I can’t see that anything you’ve said for the last 
five minutes will make it any clearer to Robert that it is 
his duty to marry Caroline 
Robert Dutyl Stern daughter of the voice of God 
Maude You’ve compromised her You’ve got her talked 
about There’s only one course open to you You owe it 
to yourself and you owe it to her And you owe it to us. 
Robert* Oh, really Do you think so* 

Maude We can’t be deprived now of the satisfaction of 
seeing you both happy You’ve behaved like a gentleman 



l86 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT II 

hitherto, I recommend you to play the r 61 e with elegance 
to the end 

Robert [He thinks it over for a moment He makes up bis 
mind] I’ll see Caroline 

Maude We will leave you Come, Isabella We have 
done our duty, and the saints in heaven can do no 
more 

Isabella Good-bye 

[He opens the door for them and they go out He rings the 
hell He walks up and down moodily once or twice , hut 
then braces himself he is an Englishman , and fears no 
foe Cooper comes tn 

Robert Will you ask Mrs Ashley if I could see her for a 
few minutes? 

Cooper Mrs Ashley is engaged, sir 
Robert I’ll wait till she is free 

Cooper Very good, sir [Exit Cooper In a moment she 
comes in again ] Mrs Ashley is ill, sir, and unable to see 
anyone 

Robert I’ll wait till she’s well 

Cooper Very good, sir [She goes out and in a moment more 
comes hack ] Mrs Ashley is dead, sir 
Robert I’ll wait till she comes to life This is the day of 
judgment, and the last trump is sounding loud and long 
Cooper Very good, sir 

[Exit This brings Caroline 

Caroline Have they gone? 

Robert Thank GodI 
Caroline [Calling ] Cooper 
Cooper [Coming m ] Yes, ma’am? 

Caroline Put the chain on the door and don’t let anyone 
in, or I’ll give you your notice 
Cooper Very good, ma’am. 

[Exit 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE 187 

Caroline Your message was so pathetic that I had to 
come, Robert 

Robert Look here, Caroline, you behaved very badly m 
putting all the blame on me You didn’t so very much 
want to marry me, did you^ 

Caroline {Smiling ] Not so very much. 

Robert Then what’s all this nonsense about floods of tears 
and fainting fits^ 

Caroline Who told you thaP 

Robert Maude She said you were m a state of collapse, 
and would only escape brain fever by a miracle 

Caroline {Chuckling ] You didn’t believe it^ 

Robert No But I thought you might be up to some 
monkey tnck 

Caroline I bore the blasting of all my hopes with complete 
fortitude, Robert 

Robert Well, now look here, Caroline, it’s no good kicking 
against the pricks We’ve got to marry 

Caroline {Energetically ] I’m hanged if we do 

Robert You know, this is only the beginning We shall be 
left no peace Sooner or later we shall be driven to it 
We may just as well resign ourselves and bow to the 
inevitable 

Caroline If I marry it’ll be because I want to, not to please 
my friends 

Robert My dear, I have a large experience of the reasons 
for which two people marry They marry from pique, or 
loneliness, or fear, for money, position, or boredom, 
because they can’t get out of it, or because their friends 
think it’ll be a good thing, because no one has ever asked 
them before, or because they’re afraid of being left on 
the shelf, but the one reason which infallibly leads to 
disaster is when they marry because they want to. 

Caroline You’re only saying that to reassure me. 



18 8 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT II 

Robert D’you think Maude and Isabella will give up the 
struggle^ Never They’ll be joined by all your friends, 
who’ll think it very fanny that you don’t marry, and by 
all mine, who’ll think there’s a discreditable reason on 
my side, by your uncles and aunts, by my nephews and 
nieces My dear girl, we haven’t a chance 

Caroline I will fight to the last cartridge, Robert 

Robert After all, I dare say we’ll jog along well enough 

Caroline [Vehemently ] Jog along! jog along! jog along! 
I don’t want to jog along 

Robert You know I’m devoted to you, Caroline 

Caroline I’m devoted to you, Robert 

Robert But I don’t mind telling you now that at the first 
moment the thought of marriage frightened me out of 
my wits It meant changing all my habits and forming 
new ones It meant giving up my freedom. You 
don’t mind my saying this, do you^ 

Caroline My dear, I didn’t feel very differently myself 

Robert It’s not that I want to be a gay dog, but I want to be 
able to be a gay dog if I want to 

Caroline I know Don’t you know how you feel when 
you’ve been a long journey, and your train steams m at 
night to some strange city that you’ve never been m 
before All the lights are twinkling And a wonderful 
excitement seizes you, and you think any adventure may 
happen to you It never does, but it always may Oh, 
Robert, if you were sitting on the seat opposite me I’d 
know it never could 

Robert It’s no good, Caroline, we’re the heroes of romance, 
you and I We’ve got to satisfy the human craving for a 
happy ending 

Caroline I wish to heaven my husband had never died 

Robert You know, Caroline, perhaps we shall feel quite 
differently about it when we are married 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE 189 

Caroline What makes you think that^ 

Robert I knew a man in South Africa who was engaged to 
a girl in England, and he wasn’t able to send for her till 
they’d been engaged for seven years He went to meet 
her at Durban, but just as the boat was coming in his 
courage failed him, and he turned and ran She chased 
him to Cape Town He fled to Johannesburg She 
chased him to Port Elizabeth He fled to Lorenzo- 
Marquez My dear, she chased him up and down the 
Continent of Africa, and at last she cornered him She 
married him out of hand, and ever since he’s been the 
happiest man alive 

Caroline I’m not thinking of you, Robert, I’m thinking 
entirely of myself 

Robert My dear, in another hour Maude will be on your 
doorstep 

Caroline The chain is up 

Robert She’ll bring a camp-stool and sandwiches 
Caroline Robert, this is intolerable^ Is there nothmg you 
can do p 

Robert Good heavens, what can I do^ I’m a desperate 
man 

Caroline I don’t like to ask you to commit suicide 
Robert That’s lucky, because I have no intention of doing 
so 

Caroline I suppose you wouldn’t marry Maude^ 

Robert No Certainly not! 

Caroline Is there nothing you’ll do for me^ 

Robert I’U marry you 

Caroline Pooh, you’re doing that for yourself, not for me 
Robert It’s no good quarrelling We shall have plenty of 
time for that when we’re married 
Caroline D’you know, we’ve never quarrelled once in all 
the time we’ve known one another 



190 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT II 

Robert That augurs well for the future, at all events 
Caroline Robert, I don’t want to marry you 

Robert Come, my dear, just a little courage I wouldn’t 
press you if I saw a way out, but there isn’t one. 

Caroline Are you sure'* 

Robert Positive It’s the only way 
Caroline It’s a far, far better thing that I do than I have 
ever done before, Robert 
Robert Then it’s settled^ 

Caroline [With a sigh ] It’s settled 

Robert We’d better get it over quickly, Caroline 

Caroline I suppose nothing is gained by delaying. 

Robert It’s lucky I didn’t resign from those clubs as I 
talked of doing 
Caroline Why^ 

Robert Well, it was a mere extravagance, I never went near 
them, but I shall want them when I am married 

Caroline I thought it was chiefly bachelors who used 
clubs 

Robert Oh, no, bachelors don’t mind staying at home 

Caroline This will make a great change in your life, 
Robert 

Robert I’ve always been very domestic I dare say it’ll do 
me good to be shaken up a bit 

Caroline You spent practically all your evenings here. 
I’m sure it won’t hurt you to see a little more of other 
people 

Robert We were getting into a groove, Caroline I dare 
say it wanted something like this to stir us up I look 
forward to the future with considerable pleasure 

Caroline The past was very pleasant, Robert A tete-cl-tete 
will never be the same thing again. 



ACT II 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


I 9 I 

Robert You’re thinking of the little suppers we used to 
have at the Savoy after the play They were jolly, 
weren’t they^ 

Caroline And you know, Robert, I never lost the little 
thrill it gave me to come and dine with you m your 
house They were harmless little dinners enough, but 
there was always a sense of adventure when I took off my 
cloak in your hall 

Robert By the way, what are you going to do about gettmg 
rid of your housed 

Caroline {Astounded ] I’m not going to get rid of my 
house 

Robert My dear, we don’t want two 

Caroline Of course not I naturally supposed you’d sell 
yours 

Robert Why^ I’ve had my house for twenty years I’m 
very much attached to it You’ve only got a lease 

Caroline That’s got nothing to do with it I’ve just had it 
redecorated I’ve spent a fortune on my bathroom 

Robert You’re not going to ask me to have my bath m a 
futurist bathroom I never feel my best before breakfast 
as it is 

Caroline I’m sorry you don’t like my bathroom. But that’s 
a matter of taste 

Robert Personally, I don’t see what anyone can want 
more than plain white tiles It’s clean, sanitary and 
cheerful 

Caroline [Beginning to be vexed ] Oh, of course you always 
think your own things are better than anybody else’s. 
Your bathroom is just like a tube station I really can’t 
see myself having my bath in it I should be afraid ail the 
time that a young man was going to pop m and say 
Next station — -Marble Archl 



act n 


192 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Robert My dear child, you must be sensible It’s perfectly 
obvious that my house is a much mcer one than yours 

Caroline [Sharply ] I don’t agree with you at all 

Robert [Impatiently ] Of course, if you won’t listen to 
reason, there’s nothing more to be said 

Caroline I tell you frankly that nothing will induce me to 
leave this house 

Robert Really, this is sheer obstinacy There’s no room 
for me here There’s not even a room that I can make 
into a study 

Caroline Oh, yes, there is There’s that very nice little 
room behind the dining-room 

Robert [Indignantly ] It looks out on a blank wall 

Caroline That’s just why I thought it would do so well 
for a study There’ll be nothing to distract your thoughts 

Robert You’ve told me a hundred times you could do 
nothing with it — it was like an ice-box in winter and like 
a furnace in summer Really, if you have no more 
affection for me than that 

Caroline It isn’t a matter of affection, it’s a matter of 
commonsense Your house is very nice for a bachelor 

Robert ^Interrupting} Thank you 

Caroline But it’s quite unsuitable for a woman There are 
no cupboards 

Robert Now you’re making difficulties, Caroline Cup- 
boards can be built 

Caroline And which room have you settled for my 
boudoir 5 The coal-cellar 5 It’s preposterous 

Robert [With temper ] I’m not going to argue the matter, 
Caroline I’ve made up my mind and there’s an end of it 

Caroline [Quite decidedly ] I happen to have made up my 
mind too 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE I93 

Robert When I was waiting for you just now I decided 
exactly how to arrange matters You shall have the best 
bedroom, of course 

Caroline It hasn’t any sun, I know it 

Robert f With dignity ] It is the room that my poor Aunt 
Charlotte died in, Caroline 

Caroline That doesn’t make it any pleasanter for me to 
live in 

Robert My dear Caroline, I cannot understand your attitude 

Caroline It’s quite simple I’m pleased with my house and 
I’m going to stick to it 

Robert It’s fortunate that I’m the most patient man in the 
world It’s obvious that a woman comes to her husband’s 
house 

Caroline I don’t see why at all 

Robert My dear, it’s one of the best-established customs 
of the human race We have Biblical authority for it 
A woman is enjoined to forsake all and follow her 
husband 

Caroline You don’t know what you’re talking about 
Before you quote the Bible I recommend you to read it 

Robert [Fuming ] Really, Caroline, I must protest against 
the tone you’re taking up I am discussing the matter in 
the most friendly spirit 

Caroline [Furious ] Surely you’re not going to accuse me 
of being acrimonious You said just now we’d never 
quarrelled Believe me, it isn’t because you haven’t 
given me abundant provocation 

Robert I think we’ll resume the conversation when you’re 
a little calmer, Caroline You’ll only say things now 
which you’ll regret later 

Caroline Don’t think for an instant you can impress me by 
being patronising, Robert I have no wish to resume the 
conversation I’ve already said all I had to say. 



ACT II 


294 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Robert The great thing is that we should clearly under- 
stand one another I am prepared to gratify all your 
whims, however unreasonable they may be, and heaven 
knows, for the most part they’re unreasonable enough, 
but this is a matter of principle I mean to begin as I 
mean to go on I wish you to put this house in the 
agent’s hands at once 
Caroline I shall do nothing of the sort 
Robert Caroline, I have put my request in the most 
courteous and obliging way possible, but I do not 
expect it to be disregarded 

Caroline I presume you are talking for your own enter- 
tainment, you’re certainly not talking for mine 
Robert Let me make myself quite clear, Caroline I refuse 
to come and live m this house 

Caroline That is unfortunate, because nothing will induce 
me to come and live in yours 
Robert Perhaps you’d like to think the matter over 
Caroline No, thank you I’ve quite made up my mind If 
you want to marry me you must come and live here 
Robert I will not marry you unless you consent to live in 
my house 

Caroline Very well That settles it 
Robert Take care, Caroline I’ve proposed twice now I 
shall not propose a third time 
Caroline I wouldn’t marry you now if you crawled on 
your bended knees from the Tower of London to 
Buckingham Palace 

Robert In that case the marriage is off, Caroline 
Caroline I was willing to sacrifice myself, but it’s a little 
too much to expect that all the sacrificing should be on 
my side 

Robert Sacrifice, you call it I was marrying you out of 
pure good nature. 



ACT II THE UNATTAINABLE J95 

Caroline Good heavens, what an escape I’ve hadl I might 
have been chained to you for life 

Robert It shows what women are Even the ablest men 
are children in their hands I’ve known vou ten years, 
Caroline, and this is the first time you’ve shown yourself 
in your true colours 

Caroline I’ve always known that you were selfish, vain 
and dyspeptic, but I shut my eyes to it I’ve been 
pumshed I didn’t like you the first time I saw \ ou It’s 
always a mistake not to trust to first impressions 

Robert In that case, I’m surprised that you threw yourself 
at my head in the way you did 

Caroline Thank heaven, my eyes are opened at last! And 
as to throwing myself at your head, I would never have 
looked at you if you hadn’t pestered me with your 
attentions 

Robert [Ironically ] I suppose you were sorry for me^ 

Caroline No, but I knew you were safe And I can’t 
imagine anything more ridiculous in a man than that 

Robert [Boiling ] Oh! oh! I will never speak to you again, 
Caroline 

Caroline You don’t think I wish to continue our acquaint- 
ance, do you^ 

Robert Have you anything more to say to me? 

Caroline Only this Perhaps you’d like to meditate over 
it If you were the only man in the world I wouldn’t 
marry you 

Robert Caroline, I can truthfully say that if I had to choose 
between the altar and the scaffold I would undoubtedly 
choose the scaffold Good-bye 

Caroline* Good riddance! [He ts going to the door Suddenly 
the telephone hell rings They both give a gasp They look 
at one another in dismay The bell rings firmly ] It’s Maude. 

Robert Good God! I’d forgotten about her 



ACT II 


I96 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Caroline What shall I do 5 
Robert Pm off, Caroline 
Caroline You coward! You can’t leave me like that 
Robert Well, you’d better answer it 
Caroline You answer it, Robert You’re a man. 

Robert I daren’t, Caroline 

[Meanwhile the hell rings persistently , angrily 
Caroline For goodness’ sake, stop it ringing! 

Robert It’ll never stop till you answer 
Caroline I wish to heaven I’d never had the telephone put 
in 

Robert I always disliked Maude 
Caroline She’s a detestable woman! 

Robert I can’t imagine why you ever put up with her 

Caroline I hate her, I hate her! [Desperately ] For good- 
ness’ sake, stop that ringing! 

Robert Take the receiver off 
Caroline You take it off, Robert 
Robert Caroline 

Caroline Oh, Robert, if you’ve ever loved me 
Robert I’ll do it 

[He creeps towards the table as though it were a beast that 
might bite, he stalks it carefully , stealthily , then with a 
sudden bound leaps on to the telephone and snatches the 
receiver off Caroline gives a shriek He bounds back 
and they are close together She clings to him They 
tremble with fear 

Robert I’ve done it 

Caroline Don’t leave me, Robert 

Robert No, I won’t leave you 

Caroline Oh, Robert, I shall never forget this 



ACT II 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


197 


Robert She thinks we’re listening She’s talking at her end 
now I expect she’s getting angry She’s making a 
scene 

Caroline Oh, Robert, I wonder what she’s saying* 
Robert Can’t you guess^ 

Caroline Thank God, the chain is on the door! She’ll be 
round in ten minutes 

[They look at one another in dismay 
Robert It’s no good, Caroline We’ve got to get married 
Caroline I know Rut what is to be done-* You must 
think of some way out, Robert 
Robert There’s only one We must give up both houses 
and take a new one 

Caroline But I like my house, Robert 
Robert I like mine 

Caroline It’ll be a wrench for both of us That’s some 
comfort 

Robert Our first sacrifice on the altar of connubial bliss 
Caroline You’ll let me decorate the new house, Robert 
Robert All except the bathroom Give me that as a 
wedding-present 

Caroline I tell you what, we’ll each have a bathroom. 

You can have yours like a tube station 
Robert And you shall have one like an attack of gastritis 
Caroline [With a sigh ] If it’s got to be done it had better 
be done at once I’ll rmg up the house agent 

[She takes up the telephone-hook and looks out an address 
Robert Shall we be married by special licence^ 

Caroline I haven’t an idea 

Robert I think I’ll just go round to the club Petersen is 
sure to be there, and he’s had a lot of experience in these 
matters There’s no reason why I shouldn’t ask him 
that 



198 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT H 

Caroline Oh, how did the divorce go^ 

Robert First rate I think it’ll last for four or five days 
Neither of them will have a shred of reputation by the 
time it’s over 

Caroline [At the telephone ] Mayfair 148 Are you Messrs 
Gaskell and BirchP I vant to let my house I can’t 
say it all on the telephone Will you send somebody 
round No At once Where^ Oh, Mrs Ashley, 
Curzon Terrace, Regent’s Park 

[She puts down the receiver 
Robert Is there anything more you want to say to me ? I’ll 
be back presently to tell you what I’ve found out 
Caroline Before dinner^ 

Robert Oh, yes By the way, about dinner Don’t you 
think we need cheering up a biP I’m afraid it would be 
rather dull dining by ourselves 
Caroline I think it would rather 
Robert Why don’t you ask Isabella^ 

Caroline Rex Cunningham is dining with her I might ask 
him too, and we can play bridge 
Robert Oh, yes, that’ll be jolly [Caroline takes out her 
patience cards ] What are you going to do now^ 

Caroline Oh, I’ll have a game of patience 
Robert Yes, do It’ll rest you 

[He goes towards the door 

Caroline Robert 
Robert Yes^ 

Caroline It’s emeralds I like, you know 
Robert I’m glad you reminded me 

[He goes out She begins to put out her patience cards 


END OF THE SECOND ACT 



THE THIRD ACT 


Scene the same It ts ten minutes later 

[Caroline is finishing her game of patience Cooper 
shorn in Dr Cornish 

Cooper Dr Cornish 

[Exit 

Caroline This is a joyful surprise I’ve torn up your 
prescription 

Dr Cornish How on earth do you expect a doctor to make 
a living if you won’t take medicine! You’ll remain 
perfectly well 

Caroline You didn’t talk like that just now 

Dr Cornish That was a visit This is a calL 

Caroline I hesitate to ask his reason 

Dr Cornish You need not I was just going to tell you 
I’m devoured with curiosity 

Caroline That isn’t one of the fadings that middle-age 
eradicates^ 

Dr Cornish Tell me, which has won, romance or common- 
sensed Are you going to marry Robert Oldham or Rex 
Cunningham^ 

Caroline My dear doctor, Rex Cunningham is a mere boy 

Dr Cornish Oh, I’ve known those marriages turn our 
very well My last cook married the lad who came m to 
do the boots and knives, and they’re very happy. At 
least I haven’t heard anything to the contrary 

Caroline I wonder how she worked it 

Dr Cornish The pokey of nag, I believe. 

199 



200 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT III 

Caroline I’ve promised to marry Robert Oldham 
Dr Cornish Then it only remains for me to congratulate 
you 

Caroline One comfort is that my friends will have to give 
me wedding-presents I get back on them that way, 
don’t P 

Dr Cornish I’m sure you’ll be very happy 
Caroline ['. Tartly ] I’m sure I shall be nothing of the sort 
Dr Cornish Don’t jump down my throat 
Caroline You know I’m very fond of Robert I don’t 
want to lose him 
Dr Cornish Is that inevitable^ 

Caroline Haven’t you noticed that other people’s bread- 
and-butter is always much nicer than your own ? Robert 
is like that He always prefers somebody else’s fireside 
If I marry him, where is he going to spend his evenings^ 
Dr Cornish I only see one way out of it You must marry 
somebody else 

Caroline I believe it’s the only way I can keep Robert It’s 
very hard if you come to think of it 
Dr Cornish Especially on the innocent victim. 

Caroline Whom d’you think I’d better marry^ 

Dr Cornish Let us exa min e your circle of friends and see 
who would meet your requirements 
Caroline [With a twinkle in her eye] I don’t think it ought 
to be anyone too young 
Dr Cornish No, a man of a certain age 
Caroline I rather like grey hair, don’t you? 

Dr Cornish A professional man, of course 
Caroline Oh, yes, I’d like him to have interests in common 
with Robert 

Dr Cornish He oughtn’t to be a barrister It would be 
such a bore for you if they talked shop together* 



ACT in 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


201 


Caroline I don’t see why he shouldn’t be a doctor 

Dr Cornish Yes, I don’t think that’s a bad idea And of 
course if he had a pretty large practice it would keep him 
busy, wouldn’t it^ 

Caroline Yes Now, there’s only one thing more I think 
he ought to be a great friend of Roberts 

Dr Cornish Obviously that would make matters much 
simpler Now, let us think I wonder who there is 

Caroline Don’t bother. Dr Cornish I’ve already made 
up my mind 

Dr Cornish God bless my soul, you’re very quick, 

Caroline You are going to marry me 

Dr Cornish [With great decision] No, I’m not 

Caroline Now, my dear friend, don’t be unreasonable 
You meet the requirements in a manner that I can only 
describe as miraculous 

Dr Cornish My dear lady, let us put things in their places 
I am your medical attendant, not an aspirant to your 
hand 

Caroline Oh, but you said j ust now that this was a call and 
not a visit 

Dr Cornish We can easily settle that I will charge you 
half a guinea, and that makes it a visit 

Caroline I thought you were a man of the world 

Dr Cornish If that means getting out of an awkward 
predicament gracefully, I flatter myself I am 

Caroline No, it doesn’t It means accepting the inevitable 
with elegance 

Dr Cornish The inevitable is only what a fool has not the 
wit to avoid \ f 

Caroline Believe me, when a woman really makes up her 
mind to marry a man nothing on God’s earth can save 
him 



101 THE UNATTAINABLE ACT III 

Da Cornish No one is more conscious than I of your 
advantages I am sure any man would be lucky to get 
you, but you know Fm very modest I don’t deserve so 
much happiness 

Caroline Your diffidence gives you a new charm in my 
eyes It shall be the object of my life to prove you 
mistaken 

Dr Cornish I have too much affection for you to consent 
for an instant to your wastmg your efforts on so unworthy 
an object 

Caroline Ah, then you have an affection for me 
Dr Cornish A purely medical affection, if I may so put it 
Caroline Good heavens, it sounds like mumps 
Dr Cornish You know, you should have had that 
prescription made up I told you you needed soothing 

Caroline I find you soothing That’s one of the reasons 
why I consent to marry you 

Dr Cornish Don’t let us lose sight of the point that I 
haven’t asked you 
Caroline Well, do 
Dr Cornish You might accept me 
Caroline I undoubtedly should 
Dr Cornish Then I don’t think I’U risk it. 

Caroline You’d better It will only be embarrassing for 
both of us if I have to make the proposal 
Dr Cornish I can always say no 
Caroline Oh, but I wouldn’t take a refusal 
Dr Cornish You’re a perfect monster of determination. 

Caroline When I think of Robert’s great affection for me, 
I’m prepared for anything 

Dr Cornish I don’t wish to seem brutal, but I really must 
tell you that in my heart of hearts I am completely 
indifferent to Robert’s affection for you 



ACT in THE UNATTAINABLE 205 

Caroline I thought he was a great friend of yours 
Dr Cornish He is 

Caroline Then you must want to make him happy I’m 
sure he’d like you to be my husband 
Dr Cornish You’re putting me in a very embarrassing 
position 

Caroline I wonder if you know how very pleasant it is to 
be married 

Dr Cornish I’m sure it’s delightful for those who like it 
Caroline There are a hundred ways in which a woman can 
make a man comfortable 

Dr Cornish There are a thousand and one in which she 
can do the reverse 

Caroline I always think there’s something rather cold and 
cheerless about a house that lacks a woman’s touch 
Dr Cornish How true* I feel quite sure that if you put 
that before Robert as persuasively as you have before me 
he will realize how very lucky he is to be going to marry 
you 

Caroline Pray, don’t be flippant You are going to marry 
me 

Dr Cornish No 
Caroline Yes 

Dr Cornish [With a smik ] After all, you can’t force me. 
Caroline I can make life intolerable to you unless you do. 
Dr Cornish You’re a very dangerous woman 
Caroline But you’re a very brave man 
Dr Cornish I can’t help thinking that Robert would look 
upon it as a very unfriendly action on my part 
Caroline Only for a moment He’d soon realize that we’d 
only had his happiness in view 
Dr Cornish If you find a husband so essential, why were, 
you so careless as to lose your last? 



ACT III 


204 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Caroline 1 never knew what a useful article it was about a 
house 

Dr Cornish It doesn’t inspire confidence, you know 
Caroline I’ll be more careful with you 
Dr Cornish [With a chuckle ] It would be an awful sell for 
him, wouldn’t iP 

Caroline Can’t you see his face when you tell hnxP 
Dr Cornish [< Considering her ] Of course, you’re a verv 
charming woman. 

Caroline People have thought so 

Dr Cornish [Impulsively \ I think Robert’s a fool He 
should never have hesitated 
Caroline He shouldn’t have, should he^ 

Dr Cornish It would serve him jolly well right if someone 
stepped over his head and seized the opportunity that he 
hadn’t the courage to take 

Caroline I’d rather you spoke of me as a prize than as an 
opportunity That suggests a remnant at a sale 

[Hi? gives her a long look There is a twinkle m his eye 
Dr Cornish Caroline, will you be my wife^ 

Caroline P [For a moment she is surprised , but she quicklj 
recmrs herself ] I hardly know what to say to you This 
is so unexpected It never entered my head that you — 
that you cared for me [ She takes the plunge with deter- 
mination ] Yes, I will be your wife 
Dr Cornish I’ve always thought it would be very nice to 
have someone on whom I could experiment with new 
medicines when they’re put on the market 
Caroline [Somewhat taken aback ] Oh! How have you 
managed up till now^ 

Dr. Cornish [Blandly ] I’ve generally tned them on the 
maids, but they have no interest in science, they will give 
me their notice But, of course, you couldn’t do that, 
could you^ 



ACT III THE IN ATTAINABLE ZO% 

Caroline I haven’t got a very great interest in science 
myself 

Dr Cornish Oh, but it’ll come I’m sure vou won’t 
hesitate at a trifling inconvenience when vou realize now 
much it means to me 

Caroline [Pun mg her bps ] If there are anv other duties 
which you expect of me, I hope ^ ou’ll tell me at once 

Dr Cornish I don’t know that there are Of coarse, you’ll 
have to lead a very retired life People don’t much like 
meeting their doctor’s wife, they’re always afraid she 
knows too much about their insides In fact, the most 
desirable thing is that she should be a confirmed invalid 

Caroline I imagine that would follow almost automatically 
on a course of medicine s whose properties vou were 
entirely unfamiliar with 

Dr Cornish That is one of those admirable contrivances 
which confirm one in the belief that the world is not a 
matter of pure chance 

Caroline [Shaking off the doubts which his remarks have 
suggested ] Oh, well, I don’t care When I think of the 
faces they’ll all make when you tell them the news, 
everything is worth while 

Dr Cornish I see the joke from your point of view much 
more than from mine 

Caroline Isabella will think it very touching and she’ll 
probably kiss you 

Dr Cornish She’s a very pretty young woman 

Caroline Maude will think I’ve behaved abominably, and 
she’ll tell me so wnth gusto But Robert — I wonder 
what Robert will look like I’m going to telephone to 
Isabella [She touches the belli They’ve spent a happy day 
here to please themselves Now it’s my turn. 

Dr Cornish Are you expecting Robert? 


H 



ACT III 


206 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Caroline Yes Dear Robert He went to buv me a ring 
[Cooper comes in ] Cooper, ring up Mrs Trench and ask 
her to come round at once I have something very 
important to tell her 

Cooper Very good, ma'am 

Exit 

Caroline Now listen Maude, if I know her, is on her way 
to this house I’m only surprised that she hasn’t come 
already Robert can’t be long Then there’s Isabella 
You mustn’t say a word till they’re all here Then- 

Dr Cornish Yes, what them* 

Caroline Then you’ll stand here and you’ll get mto an 
appropriate attitude You’ll try and look merry and 
bright, won’t you? 

Dr. Cornish Oh, d’you think so? I should have thought 
an air of stem resolution would be more to the point 

Caroline Remember that you’ve loved me in secret for 
seven years 

Dr Cornish It’s the seven which seems to me a little 
difficult to indicate on my face 

Caroline Then you’ll say to them My dear friends, I have 
a communication to impart which will be in the nature of 
a surprise to all of you Caroline has consented to be my 
wife And then we’ll see what happens 

Dr Cornish I see 

Caroline What d’you think will happen? 

[Enter CoomR, followed by Miss Fulton 

Cooper Miss Fulton. 

[Exit 

Maude Well, Caroline Oh, how do you do again. Dr 
Cornish? [To Caroline ] Is anything the matterwithyou? 

Caroline [Mysteriously ] No Dr Cornish hasn’t come to 
see me about my health 



ACT in THE UNATTAINABLE 207 

Dr Cornish No 

Maude Where is Robert? 

Caroline He’s gone out 

]\La.ude You ha\ en’t sent him away? 

Caroline He did what you wished, Maude 

!Maude [With triumph ] Ah I knew it only needed a little 
firmness and everything could be put right 

Caroline Maude, something has happened which puts an 
entirely different complexion on things 

Maude [Suddenly suspicious ] What on earth do you mean? 
Dr Cornish! 

Dr Cornish All in good time, my dear lady 

Maude Isn’t everything all right? 

Caroline It depends on what you mean by all right* 

Maude My dear 

Caroline You must wait till Robert comes It’s only fair 
that nobody should know before he does [To Dr 
Cornish ] Don’t you agree with me? 

Dr Cornish Perfectly 

Maude By the way, have you had an answer to the telegram 
you sent to Nairobi? 

Caroline No, I haven’t yet 

[Cooper comes m to announce Robert Oldham and then 
goes out 

Cooper Mr Oldham! 

Caroline [Cordially ] Ah, Robert, I’ve been wondering 
what had happened to you 

Robert Good God, there’s Maude, 

Caroline And Dr Cornish 

Robert Hulloal I’ve not seen you for a long time* What 
d’you think of the news? 

Caroline Dr Cornish has some news, too, Robert. 



ACT III 


208 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Maude If I am not told it soon I shall have an attack of 
hysterics 

Robert I’ve seen Petersen, Caroline 
Caroline You shall tell me what he said later 
Robert You’re very strange, Caroline 
Caroline Y ou must have a mo ment’s patience 
Maude Why^ 

Caroline I want Isabella to be here She takes such an 
interest m me I feel that she, too, should know some- 
thing that makes so great a difference to my future 
Robert [Somewhat irritably ] I don’t understand I hate 
mysteries 

Dr Cornish I have something to tell you which is very 
important, but Mrs Ashley does not wish me to break it 
to you till all her friends are gathered round her 
Caroline Exactly 

Maude I like mysteries, but I hate suspense 
Robert Oh, Cornish, has Caroline told you what we’ve 
decided on 

Dr Cornish She’s told me that you wish to marry her 
Robert You know I’ve been devoted to her for years 
Caroline We need not go into that now, Robert 
Maude I’m beginning to grow very uneasy 

[Enter Cooper 

Cooper Mrs Trench and Mr Cunningham 

[They enter 

Caroline At last 

Isabella What is the matter, Caroline^ Fortunately Rex 
was at my door He was just going to take me for a drive 
in the Park 

Caroline His two-seater is so useful, isn’t it^ 

Isabella So I made him bring me here at once Has 
anything happened^ Your message has made me 
dreadfully anxious 



ACT in 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


209 


Rex We’re both dreadfully anxious, Caroline 

C^rolese What is it. Cooper^ 

Cooper There’s a gentleman called He says he has an 
appointment with you, ma’am 

Caroline [Taking the card ] Gaskell and Birch Oh, 1 
know, they’re the house agents 

Robert Of course You rang them up just before I left 
you Cooper can take him round the house 

Caroline Thank the gentleman for coming, Cooper, and 
say I’m sorry to have troubled him* I shan’t be wanting 
to let my house just yet after all 

Robert [. Astounded ] CaroLne* 

Caroline That’s all. Cooper 

Cooper Very good, ma’am 

[E\it 

Robert What is the meaning of this^ You agreed that you 
would get rid of your house If you’ve changed your 
mind, Caroline 

Caroline Wait one moment, Robert Now, dear Doctor, 1 
think the time has arrived Will you tell them — every- 
thing^ 

Dr Cornish [Stepping forward} Yes My dear friends, I 
have a communication to impart which will be in the 
nature of a surprise to all of you 

Isabella I can simply hear my heart beating 

Dr Cornish [Looking steadily at Caroline] Stephen 
Ashley walked out of this room exactly five minutes ago 

All WhaP 

[No one is more taken aback than Caroline Dr 
Cornish watches her with extreme , but mward y 
entertainment 

Dr Cornish I have seen him with my own eyes He’s no 
more dead than I am* 



110 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


ACT in 


Rex My had 

Isabella I don’t understand Caroline! 

Caroline No one can be more flabbergasted than I 
Dr Cornish It’s not the first time his death has been 
announced When I came in and found him 1 was hardly 
surprised 

Caroline I don’t know if I’m standing on my head or on 
my heels 

Dr Cornish He can very easily live for twenty years 
Caroline D’you think he wilP 
Dr Cornish If proper care is taken of him 
Maude My poor Caroline, what a disappointment for you 
Dr Cornish You must all of you be very gentle with 
Caroline [To Caroline] I can only offer you my 
sincerest sympathy 
Caroline You’re not going^ 

Dr Cornish [ With a smile ] I’m going to leave you to deal 
with the situation as best you can 
Caroline [Under her breath ] You brute! 

Dr Cornish If a man of the world is one who can get out 
of an awkward predicament gracefully Good-bye 

[He goes out quickly 

Isabella You’re bearing it magnificently 
Caroline [Trying not to laugh ] D’you think so^ It’s been an 
awful strain I’ve just about reached the end of my 
strength I think I’m going to faint 
Isabella Robert, open the window You look a perfect 
wreck 

Caroline [Beginning to giggle ] No, I’m going to have a 
nerve storm 

Maude Don’t let yourself go, Caroline Don’t let yourself 

go 

Caroline [Gurgling] I can’t help it 



ACT III THE UNATTAINABLE 21 1 

[She starts laughing Her laughter grows louder and louaer 
They all press round her 
All Caroline, Caroline 
Caroline It was such a shock 1 
Isabella \\Tiere are my smelling saits^ 

Maude How stupid of me 1 

[The two ladies hurriedly take salts jrom their bags and put 
them under Caroline’s nose while she helplessly 
laughs and laughs 

Malde Here are some Slap her hands 

[The tn o men take her hands and slap the palms 
Robert Stop it, Caroline, stop itl 
Isabella Let’s send for the doctor 

Maude What’s the good of a doctor^ I know exactly what 
to do Slap her feet 
Caroline I won’t ha\ e my feet slapped 
ftlAUDE Don’t pay any attention to what she says 

[While the men continue slapping her hands +be ladies slap 
her feet Caroline laugh* uproariously At last she 
is exhausted 
Caroline Oh, dear f 

Maude Now she’s getting better I knew the best thing 
was to slap her feet If that doesn’t stop it, then the 
thing is to wrap her m a rug and roil her up and down the 
floor 

Caroline Maude, you cat! Oh, I’m beginning to feel 
better 

Robert After all, one can’t be surprised, can one^ 

Maude Good heavens, if my husband suddenly appeared 
Lac that I should fall down in a fit 
Rex I didn’t know you had a husband 
Maude I haven’t That’s why it would be such a terrible 
shock 



Ill THE UNATTAINABLE ACT III 

Isabella Now you must tell us everything, Caroline 

Caroline There’s nothing to tell 

Maude Nonsense How did he come in^ 

Caroline On his feetg 

Maude Don’t be silly What did he do^ What did he say^ 
What is he up to^ Where is he going^ 

Caroline Oh! 

[This is a long-drawn sound as she realises what she is ir for 
and what she must invent 

Robert Don’t worry her Hasn’t she been through enough 
already, poor child^ 

Caroline How good you are to me, Robert! 

Maude It can’t hurt you just to give us the bare facts, 
Caroline 

Caroline Sit down, then, and I will tell you all 

[Thej seat themselves on chairs , two on each side of her i 
eager for a full account 

Robert Now don’t excite yourself, Caroline I beseech 
you to be calm 

Maude Hold your tongue, Robert 

Caroline Well, I was sitting down quite calmly playing a 
game of patience Robert had just left me 

Robert On what an errandl 

Maude I know You had arranged to be married I saw it 
at once in Robert’s look My poor Robert! 

Robert [Simply ] I had told Caroline I couldn’t live without 
her She promised to be mine 

Caroline He went out to buy a ring I was wondering if it 
would be a cabochon 

Robert [ Gloomily ] Would you like to see^ 

[He takes out of his pocket a large emerald ring 

Caroline Oh, Robert, what a beauty! It looks frightfully 
expensive. 



ACT III THE UNATTAINABLE 21 } 

Robert Oh, a mere song I wonder if the^ ’ll take it back 
C aroline Don’t bother about that, Robert I w ill keep it as 
a memento of our short engagement 

[Robert’s face falls 

Is abella \\ hat a charming idea, Caroline' 

Robert [With a hollow laugh ] There’s no one like Caroline 
to have charming ideas like that 
Maude Go on, Caroline 

Caroline I only wanted a se\en to get mj patience out I 
drew a ten of clubs, a three of spades I don’t believe I 
shall get it, I said Suddenly Cooper opened the door 
and said a gentleman wanted to see me 
All Yes, yes 1 

[They draw their chairs a little closer 
C aroline I thought it was the house agent 
Robert Of course You rang him up just before I left 
Caroline Oh, Robert, I want to tell \ ou that I thought it 
o\er It seemed cruel to make \ou sell your dear little 
house After all, a woman should cleave to her husband 
I had made up m> mind to get rid of this one, and come 
and live in yours 

Robert Caroline, were you ready to do that for me ? 

The Others Go on, Caroline 

Caroline I didn’t hesitate I said to Cooper Show the 
gentleman up I went on with my patience Ah, I said, 
there’s the seven at last 1 I raised m} eyes, and there was 
my husband standing before me 
All Oh? 

Caroline [ Dramatically ] You, I said Yes, he said Not 
dead ? I said No, he said 

Maude It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever heard in my 
life 

Isabella What did you do then^ 



ACT III 


214 THE UNATTAINABLE 

Caroline [Deliberately ] I asked him to sit down 

Robert That was splendid You always had presence of 
mind, Caroline I like that You asked him to sit 
down 

Caroline I wanted to gain time I was all in a flutter 

Maude Of course, I think it was monstrous of him to come 
here at all 

Caroline He did it in kindness, Maude He saw the notice 
in The Times this morning, and he thought I might be 
anxious about him He said he felt the only thing to do 
was to come here himself and tell me the announcement 
was premature 

Isabella But, then, what is the explanation of it? 

Caroline The explanation? I’m just coming to that 

Robert Really the papers ought to be more careful! 

Maude Go on, Caroline, we’re simply hanging on your 
words 

Caroline I’m not sure, but I think I’m going to have 
another nerve storm 

Maude Get the hearthrug, Rex That’ll just do to roll her 
up in 

Caroline No, don’t bother I think it’s going off The 
explanation is perfectly simple Just give me a moment 
to collect my thoughts You know I’m quite dazed after 
all I’ve gone through to-day 

Isabella Take your time, dearest 

Caroline Well, I may as well confess to you now that pool 
Stephen has always been very wild It appears that he 
was in with a man called Brown, and they’d been 
connected in some deal or other which I’m afraid was 
dreadfully shady Of course, I didn’t ask for details 
It’s all rather vague in my mind 

Robert That’s only natural 



ACT in THE IN ATTAINABLE Z 1 5 

Maude Oh, be quiet, Robert 

Caroline They had a row, and Brown bolted with all 
Stephen’s belongings, his papers, his kit, everything 
Then I don’t know exactly what happened Brown 
seems to have been taken suddenly ill When he was 
brought to the hospital he was unconscious They 
found Stephen’s papers on him and naturally concluded 
he was Stephen 

Maude I see it all It’s a thing that might happen to 
anybody 

Caroline [Eagerfy] Yes, isn’t it* Stephen saw the an- 
nouncement in this morning’s Times He grasped the 
whole situation I don’t think he’s sorry the authorities 
in East Africa should believe him dead He’s made up 
his mind to go to Texas Stephen Ashley is dead to 
everyone but me 

Maude At all events, you’ve seen him for the last time, 
Caroline That’s something to be thankful for 

Caroline I suppose so 

Robert What do you mean by that* Aren’t you sure of it* 

Caroline There’s one other thing I must tell you I hardly 
know how to say it He still loves me 

Rex Caroline 

Caroline He asked me to go to Texas 

All You! 

Caroline He’s going to start a new life He said I should 
give him confidence m himself He implored me to go 
with him 

Robert But of course you refused, Caroline* 

Caroline I was obliged to refuse Then he said that I 
would be an inspiration to him He would do everything 
in the world to make amends for the past He would 
make himself a new man, and then he would come back 
for me 



216 the unattainable act id 

Isabella It’s really very beautiful 

Robert And where do I come id? 

Caroline I can never marry you, Robert 

Robert Caroline, you fill me with anguish • I must be 
alone for a moment I don’t want to be unmanly 

[He gets up and walks slowly to the window He stands 
there struggling with his emotions Rex is sunk m 
blank wretchedness 

Maude Well, Isabella, we did all we could We at all events 
have nothing to reproach ourselves with 

Isabella Poor Robert My heart bleeds for him There’s 
something singularly awe-inspiring in the sight of a 
strong man wrestling with his emotion 

Maude It’s not often that I confess myself beaten, but this 
time I really am at a loss Good-bye, Caroline I’ll ring 
up this evening to see how you are 

Caroline Good-bye, dearest I * can never thank you 
enough for all you’ve done for me to-day 

[They kiss , and Miss Fulton goes out 

Isabella I must leave you too, Caroline, but I’d just like to 
say a word or two to Robert before I go It’s just at these 
times that a man values a woman’s sympathy 

Caroline Oh, do, Isabella I know what a heart you have 
[Isabella goes up to Robert and puts her hand gently on his 
arm He heaves a sigh and gently pats her hand She looks up at 
him softly They step out on to the balcony Caroline and 
Rex have watched the little comedy ] At it again Dear 
Isabella, she’s so sympathetic 

Rex [ Gloomily ] If there’s anyone in want of sympathy now 
it’s me 

Caroline Is anything the matter^ 

Rex Can you ask me that? Oh, Caroline everything is the 
matter I love you 



ACT HI THE UNATTAINABLE 21J 

Caroline Oh, you mustn’t saj that to me no*. Res — so 
loud 

Rex This changes everything 

Caroline I suppose it does I ne\ er thought of it 

Rex You ne\er thought of me at all Oh, Caroline, you 
must be quite heartless Has anyone e\ er lo\ ed } ou as 
unselfishly as I have? 

Caroline Now that I have one man with a marriage 
certificate m his hand, so to speak, and another with a 
special licence m his pocket, it does make a difference, 
doesn’t it? 

Rex My position is absolutely intolerable 

Caroline [With a sigh of selfsatisf iction ] I am the un- 
attainable 

Ren [. Absorb°d in himself ] Oh, how I’m going to suffer 
Fm going to endure absolute agonies 

Caroline [In exactly the same condition ] I am young I am 
beautiful I am desired 

Ren You’re not paying any attention to me I adore you, 
Caroline 

Caroline [Looking away modestly J I can never love you, 
Rex 

Ren Are you quite, quite sure of that, Caroline? 

Caroline Quite, quite 

Rex [With a sigh of satisfaction ] My heart’s never been so 
broken as this time It’ll take me all my life to piece it 
together again You do believe in my love now, don’t 
you? 

Caroline Oh, yes A woman has such quick intuition I 
know that you love me 

Rex I shall pass sleepless night after sleepless night 

Caroline I can hardly bear to think of it 

Rex And there’s nothing you can do, is there? 



218 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


ACT III 


Caroline Nothing 

Rex [With immense enjoyment} I’m simply going to have a 
rotten time 

Caroline It’s wonderful to be capable of such love 
Rex Yes, Fm like that I never knew anyone who could 
suffer as I can 

Caroline It’s only those who can who are worthy of a 
great love 

Rex Do you think it would be unmanly of me to cry^ 
Caroline I shouldn’t like you to do it here 
Rex Oh, no I’ll keep a stiff upper lip as long as I’m with 
you But to-morrow morning I shouldn’t wonder at all 
if my pillow was sopping 
Caroline Have you a waterproof sheet^ 

Rex Yes I never travel without one 
Caroline [Giving him her hand ] I wish you could marry 
some nice pure young English girl 
Rex With a bit of moneys I can never forget you, Caroline 
Why are you giving me your hand^ 

Caroline [With emotion ] I thought you were going away 

Rex I can’t leave you like this We must talk this over 
thoroughly I’ve got masses of things I want to say 
to you 

Caroline Not now, Rex I’m shattered by all this emotion* 
Rex Well, when can I see you again? 

Caroline I’m afraid I’m dreadfully full up this week 
Rex Caroline, have pity on me 

Caroline Of course, if you hadn’t been engaged to-night 
you might have come and dined here 

Rex But I’m not engaged to-night 

Caroline I thought you were dining with Isabella. 

Rex I can dine with Isabella any night. 



ACT in THE UNATTAINABLE 219 

Caroline Won’t she be hurt if you throw her over 5 

Rex To tell you the truth, Caroline, I don’t think Fm 
going to get on with Isabella 
Caroline D’you find her too . . . too mdtmg* 

Rex My dear Caroline, she’s like butter on a hot day No, 
no, too many tears have been wept on that bosom, Fm 
not going to bedew it with mine 
Caroline In that case dinner at eight sharp. 

Rex I’ll come, Caroline if nothing unfortunate has 
happened to me before then 

Caroline Oh, be careful, I’ve got quite a nice little dinner 
Rex [Gloomily ] What have you got 5 
Caroline I’ve got some fresh caviare It’s just arrived 
from Russia 

Rex I could eat nothing In happier moments I don’t deny 
that I like caviare 

Caroline And I’ve got a little turtle soup 
Rex I might try to swallow a little turtle soup 
Caroline [Softly ] Don’t let anything happen before dinner 
Rex I suppose you haven’t got grilled salmon? 

Caroline No, turbot 

Rex [Desperately ] Everything goes against me 

Caroline On the other hand, I’ve got some dear little baby 
chickens just out of their shells It seems almost unkind 
to eat them when so young 

Rex I dare say they’ve been saved a lot of unhappiness 
Caroline. And then nothing but a strawberry ice 
Rex I shouldn’t wonder if I could eat the ice. 

Caroline Then you’ll come? 

Rex [With a deep sigh ] If it’ll give you any pleasure. A 
dinner-jacket or a white tie 5 
Caroline A dinner-jacket 



220 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


ACT ni 


Rex All right Good-bye I I can’t say good-bye tc 
the others I’m in such a fearful state of agitation 

[Exit Isabella hears the door close and comes back 
mto the room 

Isabella Has Res gone? He was going to drive me home 

Caroline How stupid of him! I suppose he forgot 

Isabella I’ll get a taxi I want to leave you alone with 
Robert He’s dreadfully upset, Caroline 

Caroline Is he ? 

Isabella I’ve been trying to console him a little 

Caroline Yes, I saw you 

Isabella Be very gentle with him, Caroline Be tender 

Caroline I shall never find the exquisite things to say to 
him that you would, Isabella 

Isabella He says I have a wonderful gift of sympathy 

Caroline [With a sigh] I wonder if you’d come and dine 
with me to-night^ 

Isabella I’m afraid I’ve asked Rex 

Caroline I’m sure he doesn’t need you half as much as 
I do 

Isabella Oh, if you need me, Caroline, of course I’ll come 
Somehow I felt you’d want me to-night We’ll have 
a good cry together, darling 

Caroline Oh, that will be nice 

Isabella Good-bye till then, dearest, I suppose I’d better 
put on a tea-gown 

Caroline Oh, yes, that’ll be very suitable Dinner at eight 
sharp 

Isabella Only an egg for me, Caroline 

[She goes out Robert hears her last word as he comes 
mto the room 

Robert When is she going to eat an egg? 



ACT III THE UNATTAINABLE 221 

Caroline For dinner 

Robert How disgusting 1 Where** 

Caroline Here 

Robert You don’t mean to say you’ve invited her to 
dinner* 

Caroline Yes 

Robert Why on earth have you done that 5 

Caroline You asked me to 

Robert I never did anything of the sort Really, Caroline, 
you are too inconsiderate 

Caroline I thought you wanted to play bridge afterwards 

Robert Bridge! You might have known that this evening 
of all others I’d want to be alone with you Lpon tn\ 
word, it’s too callous! 

Caroline Oh, Robert 

Robert I’m staggering under the bitterest disappointment 
of my life I’m utterly miserable The only thing that 
consoled me was the thought of having a quiet et emng 
alone with }ou so that we could have a good talk And 
you bring that cackling woman along 

Caroline I thought you were so fond of her 

Robert You know perfectly well that for ten years I’ve 
been supremely indifferent to e\ ery woman in the world 
but you 

Caroline [She begins to understand ] Oh! [With a smile] 
It’s very nice of you to say so, dear Robert 

Robert Caroline, I don’t know how I’m going to bear it 
I feel as if the earth were tottering under my teet* 

Caroline You must have patience, Robert* 

Robert Patience! I’ve had patience for ten years And 
now just when the reward was put into my hands it’s 
snatched away 



222 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


ACT ni 


Caroline You know, I expected you to be rather relieved 
at hearing that my husband was alive 

Robert P My dear Caroline, have you gone out of your 
min rP 

Caroline You weren’t so very anxious to marry me this 
morning 

Robert Nonsense, Caroline You know very well that I’ve 
always been anxious to marry you 

Caroline You dissembled with some skill, Robert 

Robert I will be perfectly frank with you, Caroline At 
the first moment I was a little startled It meant begin- 
ning a new life and the change of all my habits But 
that was only a natural hesitation When you accepted 
me I knew I’d achieved the dearest wish of my heart 
Caroline, I’ve never wanted to marry you as much as 
I do now 

Caroline Don’t you think I’m a little old to marry^ 

Robert You? 

Caroline It has occurred to me sometimes that I’m not 
quite so young as I was A spiteful person might say 
I was almost middle-aged! 

Robert What nonsense! Why, you haven’t reached your 
prime yet 

Caroline Are you sure you see no change in me 5 

Robert None This morning I thought perhaps you were 
almost looking your age But now, I don’t know what’s 
happened to you, you look radiant You’ve not been 
making up, have you ? 

Caroline Oh, no, I never do that 

Robert, You look eighteen You’re ravishing If I hadn’t 
been madly in love with you for ten years I should fall 
in love with you this afternoon. 



ACT III THE UNATTAINABLE ZZ 3 

Caroline It makes me feel so happy to hear you say tnat 

Robert Oh, it’s cruel that this man should come back just 
when we’d fixed everything up I want to be married 
to you, Caroline Why shouldn’t we take the matter 
m our own hands and force the wretched fellow to 
divorce you^ 

Caroline We’ve discussed that so often and we’ve decided 
it was impossible We’re slaves of our past, our circum- 
stances, and our surroundings It can’t be done, Robert 

Robert D’you mean to say we must go on like this? 

Caroline Are you sure we’re not happier as we are^ We 
can keep our ideals in one another Who knows what 
painful surprises marriage might bring us p You might 
find me flirtatious and exacting I might discover you 
were selfish and comfort-loving 

Robert Hang it all, Caroline, I’m not selfish I have a 
passion for self-sacrifice 

Caroline Nothing is so pleasant as to think of the sacrifices 
that one will never have to make 

Robert Caroline, you don’t know how I love you 

Caroline Our love has lasted very long, Robert Don’t 
you think a closer connection might give it all sorts of 
little nibs and wrenches till there was nothing of it left? 
One may reasonably ask one thing of life, that it 
shouldn’t tear rents in the illusions it creates Illusion 
may be the foundation of all our happiness, but even if 
it is illusion let us keep it 

Robert You may talk, but that man can’t live for ever 

Caroline He has a wonderful physique 

Robert Next time he dies, I shall seize you by the hair 
your head and drag you to the altar 

Caroline He’ll see us both out I’m conscious that 
lives now with a new and different life. It may be 



ZH 


THE UNATTAINABLE 


ACT III 


he’s necessary for our happiness So, I cannot fade and 
you will ever love My husband has been found [With 
immense decision ] And now, Robert, he will never die 
Robert Caroline, I adore you 

[He clasps her tn his arms 
The End 



HOME AND BEAUTY 


A FARCE 
tn Three Acts 




CHARACTERS 


William, a hero 

Frederick, another 

Victoria, a dear little thing 

Mr Leicester Paton, a wangler 

Mr A B Raham, a solicitor 

Miss Montmorency, a maiden lady 

Mrs Shuttleworth, a mother-in-law 

Miss Dennis, a manicurist 

Mrs Pogson, a respectable ^omao 

Taylor, a parlourmaid 

Nannie, a nurse 

Clarence, a boy 


The action of the play takes place at Victories house a 
Westminster towards the end of November 9 1918. 




HOME AND BEAUTY 


THE FIRST ACT 

The scene is Victoria’s bedroom It is the kind of bedroom 
which ts only used to sleep tn } and but for the bed , with its 
hangings and its beautiful coverlet > and the great lacquer 
dressing-table , crowded with the necessary aids to feminine 
beauty , might just as well be a sitting-room There are grateful 
pieces of furniture here and there , attractive pictures on the 
walls , flowers it is all very comfortable y luxurious and 
modish In the fire-place a bright fire ts burning 

Victoria, a pretty little thing in a lovely “ confection which 

ts partly tea-gown and partly dr es sing-gown , is lying on a 
sofa having her hands manicured Miss Dennis, the mani- 
curist , is a neat y trim person of twenty-five She has a slight 
cockney accent 

Miss Dennis [ Evidently ending a long story ] And so at last 
I said to him Oh, very well, ’ave it your own way 

Victoria One has to in the end, you know 

Miss Dennis He’d asked me five times, and I really got 
tired of saying no And then, you see, in my business 
you get to know all the ms and outs of married life, and 
my impression is that, in the long run, it don’t really 
matter very much who you marry 

Victoria Oh, I do so agree with you there It all depends 
on yourself When my first husband was killed poor 
darhng, I went all to pieces My bust simply went to 
nothing 1 couldn’t wear a low dress for months 

Miss Dennis How dreadful 

229 



ACT I 


23O HOME AND BEAUTY 

Victoria I simply adored him But you know, Fm just 
as fond of my second husband 

Miss Dennis You must have one of those loving natures 

Victoria Of course, I should never survive it if anything 
happened to my present husband, but if anything did 
— touch wood — you know, I couldn’t help myself, Fd 
just have to marry again, and I know Fd love my third 
husband just as much as I loved the other two 

Miss Dennis [Stgbmg ] Love is a wonderful thing 

Victoria Oh, wonderful Of course, Fd wait the year 
I waited the year when my first was killed 

Miss Dennis Oh yes, I think one always ought to wait the 
year 

Victoria I noticed you had an engagement ring on the 
moment you came in 

Miss Dennis I didn’t really ought to wear it durmg business 
hours, but I like to feel it’s there 

Victoria I know the feeling so well You turn it round 
under your glove, and you say to yourself Well, that’s 
settled Is he nice-looking? 

Miss Dennis Well, he’s not what you might call exactly 
handsome, but he’s got a mce face 

Victoria Both my husbands have been very handsome 
men You know, people say it doesn’t matter what a 
man looks like, but that’s all nonsense There’s nothing 
shows a woman off like a good-look mg man 

Miss Dennis He’s very fair 

Victoria Of course, it’s all a matter of taste, but I don’t 
think I should like that myself They always say fair 
men are deceitful Both my husbands were dark, and 
they both had the D S O 

Miss Dennis That’s funny, isn’t n? 



ACT I HOME AND BEAUTY Z$l 

Victoria I flatter myself there are not many women 
who’ve been married to two DSO’s I think I’ve done 
my bit 

Miss Dennis I should just think you had If it’s not asking 
too much, I should like to know which of them you 
liked best 

Victoria Well, you know, I really can’t say 
Miss Dennis Of course, I haven’t had the experience, but 
I should have thought you’d prefer the one who wasn’t 
there That almost seems like human nature, doesn’t it 3 
Victoria The fact is, all men have their faults They’re 
selfish, brutal and inconsiderate They don’t understand 
how much everything costs The\ can’t see things, poor 
dears, they’re cat-witted Of course, Freddie’s verv 
unreasonable sometimes, but then so was Bill And he 
adores me He can hardly bear me out of his sight 
They both adored me 

Miss Dennis That makes up for a great deal, I must say 
Victoria I can’t understand the women who complain 
that they’re misunderstood I don’t want to be under- 
stood I want to be loved 

[Taylor opens the door and introduces Mrs Shuttle- 
worth This is Victoria’s mother , an elderly y 
grey-hatred lady in black 
Taylor Mrs Shuttleworth 

[Exit 

Victoria [Gushing ] Darling Mother 
Mrs Shuttleworth My precious child 
Victoria This is Miss Dennis It’s the only moment in 
the day she was able to give me 
Mrs Shuttleworth [Graciously] How do you do p 
Victoria You don’t mind coming up all these stairs, do 
you, darling^ You see, we have to be dreadfully 
economical with our coal We tried to wangle more, 
but we couldn’t manage it. 



ACT I 


232 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Mrs Shuttleworth Oh, I know The coal controller was 
positively rude to me Red tape, you know 
Victoria They say we can only have two fires Of course, 
we have to have one in the nursery, and I must have 
one in my bedroom So I have to see people in here 
Mrs Shuttleworth And how are the precious darlings^ 
Victoria Fred’s got a slight cold, and Nannie thought he’d 
better stay in bed, but Baby’s splendid Nannie will 
bring him in presently 

Miss Dennis Are they both boys, Mrs Lowndes^ 
Victoria Yes But I’m going to have a girl next time 
Mrs Shuttleworth Fred will be two next month, 
Victoria 

Victoria I know I’m beginning to feel so old Poor 
lamb, he wasn’t born till three months after his father 
was killed 

Miss Dennis How very sad You don’t like the nails too 
red, do you^ 

Victoria Not too red 

Mrs Shuttleworth She looked too sweet in mourning 
I wish you could have seen her. Miss Dennis 
Victoria Mother, how can you say anything so heartless^ 
Of course, black does suit me There’s no denying that 
Mrs Shuttleworth I insisted on her going to Mathilde 
Mourning must be well made, or else it looks nothing 
at all 

Miss Dennis Did you say your little boy’s name was Fred? 
After his father, I suppose^ 

Victoria Oh no, my first husband was called William He 
particularly wanted the baby to be called Frederick 
after Major Lowndes You see. Major Lowndes had 
been my husband’s best man, and they’d always been 
such great friends 
Miss Dennis Oh, I see 



ACT I HOME AND BE At TY Z 0 $ 

Victoria Then, when I married Major Lowndes, and my 
second baby was born, we thought it would be nice to 
give it my first husband’s name, and so we called it 
William 

Mrs Shottleworth I was against it mvseif I thought it 
would alw ays remind the dear child of what she’d lost 

Victoria Oh, but. Mother darling, I don’t feel a bit like 
that about Bill I shall never forget him [To Miss 
Dennis, pointing to a double photograph frame ] You see, 
I have their photographs side by side 

Miss Dennis Some men wouldn’t like that verv much 

Victoria. Freddie has me now He can’t grudge it if I grve 
a passing thought to that poor dead hero who’s lung 
in a nameless grave in France 

Mrs Shuttles orth Don’t upset yourself, darling You 
know how bad it is for } our skm She has such a soft 
heart, poor dear 

Victoria Of course, now the war’s over, it’s different, but 
when Freddie was at the front I always thought it must 
be a consolation to him to think that if anything hap- 
pened to him and I married again I should always keep 
a little corner m my heart for him 

Miss Dennis There, I think that’s all for to-day, Mrs 
Lowndes Would you like me to come agam on Frida} 

[She proceeds to put away the various utensils she has 
been using 

Victoria [Looking at her nails ] Please You do them 
beautifully There’s something \ery satisfactory in a 
well-manicured hand It gives you a sense of assurance, 
doesn’t lP If I were a man I would never want to hold 
a hand that wasn’t nicely manicured 

Miss Dennis The gentleman I’m going to marry said to 
me that the first thing that attracted him was the way 
my nails were polished 



ACT I 


234 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Victoria One never knows what’ll take a man’s fancv 

Mrs Shuttleworth Personally, I am a firm believer m 
first impressions And that is why I say to all the girls 
I know Whenever you are being shown mto a drawing- 
room bite both your lips hard, give them a good lick, 
put your head in the air, and then sail in. "" There’s 
nothing men like more than a red moist mouth I’m an 
old woman now, but I never go into a room without 
doing it 

Miss Dennis Fancy, now, I never thought of that I must 
try it and see 

Mrs Shuttleworth It may make all the difference to 
your life 

Victoria Miss Dennis is engaged to be married. Mother 

Mrs Shuttleworth Ah, my dear, don’t make the 
common mistake of thinking that because you’ve got 
one man safe you need not make yourself attractive to 
others 

Victoria On Friday next, then. Miss Dennis 

Miss Dennis Very well, Mrs Lowndes Is there anything 
you’re wanting just at the moment^ 

Victoria Nothing, thanks 

Miss Dennis I’ve got a new skin food that they’ve just 
sent me over from Pans I would like you to give it a 
trial I think it’s just the thing for your complexion 

Victoria I’m afraid to try anything I don’t know I’ve 
got such a delicate skin 

Miss Dennis It’s been specially prepared for skins like 
yours, Mrs Lowndes The ordinary skin food is well 
enough for the ordinary skin, but a really beautiful skin 
like yours wants something very extra-special in the 
way of food 

Victoria I expect it’s frightfully expensive, and you know, 
they say we must economize I suppose somebody’s got 
to pay for the war 



ACT I 


HOME AND BEAUTY 


*35 

Miss Dennis Fll make special terms for you, Mrs Lowndes 
Fll only charge you fifty-nine and sis for a three-guinea 
pot It’s a large pot, as large as that [She measures with 
her fingers a pot about three inches high ] I promise you it’s 
not an extravagance A good skin food is an investment 

Victoria Oh well, bring it with you next time you come 

Miss Dennis Fm sure you won’t regret it Good afternoon, 
Mrs Lowndes [To Mrs Shuttleworth ] Good 
afternoon 

[She goes out 

Mrs Shuttleworth I dare say she’s nght They pick up 
a lot of experience, those women I always say the same 
thing to girls Look after your skin, and your bills will 
look after themselves 

Victoria She was telling me that the Johnston Blahes are 
gomg to divorce 

Mrs Shuttleworth [Without concern] Really Wh}^ 

Victoria He’s been fighting for the last four years He 
says he wants a little peace now 

Mrs Shuttleworth Fm afraid many of these men who’ ve 
been away so long will have got out of the habit of being 
married I dare say it was a mercy that poor Bill was 
killed 

Victoria Mother darling, how can you say anything so 
dreadfuP 

Mrs Shuttleworth Well, I must say I was thankful when 
Freddie got a job at the War Office The difference 
between men and women is that men are not naturally 
addicted to matrimony With patience, firmness, and 
occasional rewards you can train them to it just as you 
can tram a dog to walk on its hind legs But a dog would 
rather walk on all fours and a man would rather be free. 
Marriage is a habit 

Victoria And a very good one. Mother 



ACT I 


236 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Mrs Shuttleworth Of course But the unfortunate thing 
about this world is that good habits are so much easier 
to get out of than bad ones 

Victoria Well, one thing I do know, and that is that 
Freddie simply adores being married to me 

Mrs Shuttleworth In your place, I should have married 
Leicester Paton 

Victoria Good heavens, why^ 

Mrs Shuttleworth Have you never noticed that he wears 
spats^ Men who wear spats always make the best 
husbands 

Victoria It probably only means that he nas cold feet I 
expect he wears bedsocits, and I should hate that 

Mrs Shuttleworth Nonsense It means that he has a 
neat and orderly mind He likes things just so Every- 
thing in its place and at the proper season In fact, a 
creature of habit I am convinced that after six months 
of marriage Leicester Paton would forget that he’d ever 
been a bachelor 

Victoria I was a soldier’s widow I don’t think it would 
have been very patriotic to marry a civilian 

Mrs Shuttleworth You girls all talked as though the 
war would last for ever Heroism is all very well, but 
at a party it’s not nearly so useful as a faculty for small 
talk 

[Taylor comes m 

Taylor Mr Leicester Paton has called, madam I said I 
didn’t know if you could see him 

Victoria Talk of the devil Oh yes, bring him up here 

Taylor Very good, madam 

[Exzl 

Mrs Shut itje worth I didn’t know you were seeing any- 
thing of him, Victoria 



ACT I HOME AND BEAUTY 2*7 

Victoria [With some archness ] He’s been rather attentive 
lately 

Mrs ShuttleyvORth I knew I was right I felt sure yon 
attracted him 

Victoria Oh, darling, you know I can never think of any- 
one but Freddie, but of course it’s useful to have someone 
to run errands for one And he can wangle almost 
anything one wants 

Mrs Shuttleworth Butter^ 

Victoria Everything, my dear, butter, sugar, whisky 

Mrs Shuttleworth Bite your bps, darling, and give 
them a good lick [Victoria carries out the suggestion ] 
You missed the chance of your life 

Victoria After all, he never asked me 

Mrs Shuttleworth Don’t be silly, Victoria, you should 
have made him 

Victoria You know that I adored Freddie Besides, ration 
books hadn’t come m then 

Mrs Shuttleworth By the way, where is Freddie^ 

Victoria Oh, my dear, I’m perfectly furious with him He 
promised to take me out to luncheon, and he never 
turned up He never telephoned or anything, not a 
word I think it’s too bad of him He may be dead for 
all I know 

Mrs Shuttleworth Optimist 

[Taylor ushers in Mr Leicester Paton, and then 
goes out He is a small , fat man , very well pleased 
with the world and with himself beautifully dressed 
and obviously prosperous You could tell at a mile 
that he had so much money that he did not know what 
to do with it He is affable , gallant and easy. 

Taylor Mr Leicester Paton 

Victoria I hope you don’t mind bemg dragged up all 
these stairs We have to be so dreadfully economical 


i 



238 HOME AND BEAUTY ACT I 

•with our coal I can only afford to have a fire in my 
bedroom 

Paton [Shaking hands with her ] You’re not going to tell 
me that you have any trouble about getting coal Why 
on earth didn’t you let me know? [Shaking hands with 
Mrs Shuttleworth ] How do you do? 

Victoria You don’t mean to say you could get me some? 
Paton It’s quite out of the question that a pretty woman 
shouldn’t have everything she wants 
Victoria I told Freddie that I felt sure he could wangle it 
somehow What’s the use of being at the War Office 
if you can’t have some sort of a pull? 

Paton Leave it to me I’ll see what I can do for you 
Victoria You’re a perfect marvel 

Paton Now that these men are coming back from the 
front no one would look at us poor devils who stayed 
at home if we didn’t at least make ourselves useful 
Victoria You only stayed at home because it was your 
duty 

Paton I attested, you know, I didn’t wait to be called up 
But the Government said to me You’re a shipbuilder 
go on budding ships So I built them ships 
Mrs Shuttleworth I think it was very noble of you 
Paton And then they bring in a tax on excess profits As 
I said to the Prime Minister myself It’s trying one’s 
patriotism rather high It really is 
Mrs Shuttleworth A little bird has whispered to me 
that the Government intends to show its appreciation 
of your great services in the next Honours List 
Paton Oh, one doesn’t ask for that One’s glad to have 
been able to do one’s bit 

Victoria How true that is That’s just what I feel 
Mrs Shuttleworth Victoria has worked like a dog, you 
know It’s a marvel to me how her health has stood it 



ACT I HOME AND BEAtTI 239 

Victoria I don’t know how many committees I’ve been 
on I’ve sold at twenty-three bazaars 

Paton There’s nothing that takes it out of one so much 

Victoria At the beginning of the war I worked in a 
canteen, but I had to give that up, because I could never 
go out to lunch anywhere I thought at one time of 
working in a hospital, but you know all the red tape 
there is in those places — they said I had no training 

Mrs Shuttleworth I’m sure you’d have made a won- 
derful nurse 

Victoria I didn’t propose to be the ordinary sort of nurse 
at all I was quite content to leave that to those un- 
fortunate females who make their living by it But it 
doesn’t want any particular training to be mce to those 
poor, dear, wounded boys, to shake out their pillows 
and take them flowers, and read to them It only wants 
sympathy 

Paton I don’t know anyone who has more 

Victoria [With a flash of her eyes] With people I like 

Mrs Shuttleworth Have you stopped your teas, darling 5 

Victoria Oh, yes, after the Armistice 

Paton You used to give teas to wounded soldiers? 

Victoria Yes, Tommies, you know I think it’s so im- 
portant to cultivate the personal relation I used to 
invite a dozen every Thursday At first I had them m 
the drawing-room, but it made them shy, poor dears, 
so I thought it would be nicer for them if they had it m 
the servants’ hall I’m the only woman I know who ne\ er 
had the smallest trouble with her maids 

Mrs Shuttleworth Darling, I think I’ll go upstairs and 
see how my dear little grandson is I do hope it’s not 
influenza 

Victoria Yes, do. Mother He’ll be thrilled to see you. 



240 


HOME AND BEAUTY 


ACT I 


[Mrs Shuttles orth goes out Leicester Paton, 
rising as she does , when he sits down again takes a 
place on the sofa beside Victoria 
Paton Is anything the matter with your little boy** 
Victoria Poor darling, he’s got a cold 
Paton I’m so sorry 

Victoria I dare say it’s nothing, but you know what a 
mother is she can’t help feeling anxious 
Paton You’re a wonderful mother 
Victoria I adore my children 

Paton [Going on with his sentence J And a perfect wife 
Victoria D’you think so^ 

Paton Doesn’t your husband^ 

Victoria Oh, he’s only my 
count * ^ 

Paton Doe c ^cnow what a lucky m? < 

Victoria If does he’s quite convi 7 'eserves 

to be tlujj 

Paton I tr^fy him t wait to btJ 2 .l 1 

Victoria ^ dashing a glance at him ] ^P^ik I’m 

quite fy* estable, then? f *f you? 

Paton ^.111 I tell you what I think s tggerate V 
Victor?^ No, don’t, you’ll only ct Matter £ ou tn 0 w, 
there are only two qualities that I r ' -"^/self on I’m 
not vain and I am unselfish W 

[Frederick comes m He is a /jK. soldierly fellow in 
uniform, with red tabs and a r umber of ribbons on 
bis tunic He nods to Leicester Paton and shakes 
hands with him 

Victoria Freddie, where have you been all this time? 
Frederick I’ve been at the club 

Victoria But you promised to take me out to luncheon. 


husband H “ doesn’t 

that he d 



ACT I HOME AND BEAUTY 14 1 

Frederick D^d I? I forgot all about it I’m so sorry 

Victoria Forgot? I suppose something more amusing 
turned up 

Frederick Well, I only said I d come if I wasn’t too busy 

Victoria Were you busv? 

Frederick I was 

Victori \ Bill was never too busy to give me luncheon when 
I wanted it 

Frederick Fancy that 

Pvton I think I’ll be getting along Now the war’s over 
you fellows can take things easily Mv work goes on 
just the same 

Frederick That’s a new car you’ve got, isn’t it? 

Pm>N I have to get about somehow, you know 

Frederick So do I, but being only a soldier I manage to 
do it on flat feet 

Pvton [Shaking hards with Victoria ] Good-bve 

Victoria Good-b}e So nice of ^ ou to come and see me 

[Leicester Paton goes o it 

Victoria I should be glad to know why you threw me 
over like that 

Frederick Are you obliged to receive visitors in your 
bedroom? 

Victoria You don’t mean to say you’re jealous, darling? 
I thought you seemed grumpy Is he put out? Let him 
come and give his little wife a nice kiss 

Frederick [Irritably ] I’m not in the least jealous 

Victoria You silly old thing You know it’s the only room 
in the house that’s got a fire 

Frederick Why the dickens don’t you have one in the 
drawing-room? 

Victoria My poor lamb, have you forgotten that there’s 



242 HOME AND BEAUTY ACT I 

been a war and there happens to be a shortage of coaP 
I will tell you exactly why we don’t have a fire in the 
drawing-room Patriotism 

Frederick Patriotism be hanged The place is like an 
ice-house 

Victoria Darling, don’t be unreasonable After spending 
two winters in the trenches I shouldn’t have thought 
you’d be such a slave to your comfort I know you 
don’t mean it when you say patriotism be hanged, but 
you shouldn’t say things like that even m jest 

Frederick I’m dashed if I can see why it would be less 
patriotic to have a fire in the drawing-room where we 
could all benefit by it, rather than here where it’s no 
good to anyone but you 

Victoria [Opening her ejes very wide ] Darling, you’re not 
going to ask me to do without a fire in my bedroom? 
How can you be so selfish^ Heaven knows, I don’t want 
to boast about anything I’ve done, but after having 
slaved my life out for four years I do think I deserve a 
little consideration 

Frederick How’s the kid P 

Victoria And it’s not as if I grudged you the use of my 
room You can come and sit here as much as you like 
Besides, a man has his club He can always go there if 
he wants to 

Frederick I apologize You’re quite right You’re always 
right 

Victoria I thought you wanted me to be happy 

Frederick I do, darling 

Victoria Before we were married, you said you’d make 
that the chief aim of your life 

Frederick [SmiLng ] I can’t imagine that a sensible man 
could want a better one 

Victoria Confess that you’ve been a perfect pig 



ACT I HOME AND BEUTY 2^ 

Frederick A brute beast, darling 

Victoria [Moll fied] D’you know that I asked you to give 
me a kiss just now^ It’s not a request that Pm m the 
habit of having ignored 

Frederick I trust it’s not one that you’re in the habit of 
making to all and sundry 

[He fasses her 

Victoria Now tell me why you forgot to take me out to 
luncheon to-daj> 

Frederick I didn’t forget I was prevented I I 
haven’t had any luncheon myself I’ll just ring and ask 
the cook to send me up something 
Victoria My poor lamb, the cook left this morning 
Frederick Again? 

Victoria How d’you mean again* This is the first time 
she’s left 

Frederick Hang it all, she’s onlj been here a week 
Victoria You needn’t get cross about it It’s much more 
annoying for me than for you 
Frederick [ Jrntably ] I don’t know why on earth you can’t 
keep your servants 

Victoria No one can keep servants nowadays 
Frederick Other people do 

Victoria Please don’t speak to me like that, Freddie I’m 
not used to it 

Frederick I shall speak to you exactly as I choose 
Victoria It’s so petty to lose your temper just because you 
can’t have something to eat I should have thought after 
spending two years in the trenches you’d be accustomed 
to going without a meal now and then 
Frederick For goodness’ sake don’t make a scene 
Victoria It’s not I who am making a scene It’s >ou who 
are making a scene 



ACT I 


244 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Frederick Victoria, I beg you to control yourself 

Victoria I don’t know how you can be so unkind to me 
After all the anxiety I suffered on your account when 
you were in France, I do think you might have a little 
consideration for me 

Frederick Seeing that for the last year I’ve had a perfectly 
safe, cushy job at the War Office, I think you might by 
now have recovered from any anxiety you felt on my 
account 

Victoria Must I remind you that my nerves were shattered 
by poor Bill’s deaths 

Frederick No, but I was confident vou would 

Victoria The doctor said I should need the greatest atten- 
tion for several years I don’t believe I shall ever quite 
get over it I should have thought even if you didn’t 
love me any more you’d have a little human pity for me 
That’s all I ask, just the tolerant kindness you’d show 
to a dog who was fond of you [Working herself up into 
a passion ] Heaven knows I’m not exacting I do every- 
thing I can to make you happy I’m patience itself 
Even my worst enemy would have to admit that I’m 
unselfish [As he is about to speak ] You weren’t obliged 
to marry me I didn’t ask you to You pretended you 
loved me I would never have married you if it hadn’t 
been for Bill You were his greatest friend You made 
me love you because you spoke so beautifully of him 
[He is just going to say something , , but she goes on implacably ] 
That’s my mistake I’ve loved you too much You’re 
not big enough to bear so great a love. Oh, what a 
fool I’ve been I let myself be taken in by you, and I’ve 
been bitterly punished [Heading off the words she sees he 
wants to speak ] Bill would never have treated me like 
that Bill wouldn’t have taken my poor, loving heart 
ana rnrown it aside like an old hat Bill loved me He 
would have always loved me I adored that man He 



ACT I HOME AND BEAUTY Z4J 

waited on me hand and foot He was the most unselfish 
man I ever knew He was a hero He’s the only man 
I ever really cared for I was mad ever to think of 
marrying you, mad, mad, mad I shall never be happy 
again 1 would give anything in the world to have my 
dear, dear Bill back again 

Frederick I’m glad you feel like that about it, because 
he’ll be here in about three minutes 
Victoria [Brought up snort] What^ What on earth d%ou 
mean by that* 5 

Frederick He rang me up at the club a Little while ago 
Victoria Freddie What are you tailing about^ Are you 
mad^ 

Frederick No Nor drunk 
Victoria. I don’t understand Who talked to yom 5 
Frederick Bill 
Victoria Bill Bill who^ 5 
Frederick Bill Cardew 
Victoria But, poor darling, he’s dead 
Frederick He showed no sign of it on the telephone 
Victoria. But, Freddie Freddie Oh, you’re pulling 
my leg It’s too beastly of you How can you be so 
heartless^ 5 

Frederick Weil, just wait and you’ll see for vourself 
[Looking at fas wrist watch ] In about two and a half 
minutes now, I should think 

Victoria [Coaxing him ] Now, Freddie, don’t be vindictive 
I dare say I was rather catty I didn’t mean it You 
know I adore you You can have a fire in your study, 
and damn the food controller I’m sorry for all I said 
just now There, now, it’s all right, isn’t it^ 
Frederick Perfectly But it’s not going to prevent Bill 
from walking into this room in about two minutes and 
a quarter 



ACT I 


246 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Victoria I shall scream It’s not true Oh, Freddie, if 
you ever loved me, say it’s not true 

Frederick There’s no need to take my word for it 

Victoria But, Freddie, darling, do be sensible Poor Bill 
was killed at the Battle of Ypres He was actually seen 
to fall He was reported dead by the War Office You 
know how distressed I was I wore mourning and 
everything We even had a memorial sen ice 

Frederick I know It’ll want a devil of a lot of explaining, 
turning up like this 

Victoria I shall go stark, staring mad in a minute How 
do you know it was Bill who spoke to you on the 
telephone^ 

Frederick He said so 

Victoria That proves nothing Lots of people say they’re 
the Kaiser 

Frederick Yes, but they speak from a lunatic asylum He 
spoke from Harwich Station 

Victoria I dare say it was somebody else of the same name 

Frederick That’s idiotic, Victoria I recognized his voice 

Victoria What did he say exactly^ 

Frederick Well, he said he was at Harwich Station, and 
would be in London at 3 1 3 And would I break it to 
yom> 

Victoria But he must have said more than that 

Frederick No, not much 

Victoria For goodness’ sake, tell me exactly what he 
said — exactly 

Frederick Well, I was just coming along to take you out 
to luncheon, when I was told I was wanted on the 
telephone A long-distance call — Harwich 

Victoria I know A seaport town 



A.CT I HOME AND BEAUIY 247 

Frederick I strolled along and took up the receiver I 
said Is that you, darling 5 

Victoria Why did you say that 5 

Frederick That’s always a good opening on the telephone 
It puts the person at the other end at their ease 
Victoria Idiot 

Frederick Somebody said Is that you, Freddie 5 I thought 
I recogni2ed the voice, and I felt all funn} Yes, I said 
It’s me, Bill, he said. Bill Cardew 
Victoria For heaven’s sake be quick about it 
Frederick Hulloa, I said, I thought you were dead I 
thought as much, he answered How are you 5 I said 
Ai, he said 

Victoria What an idiotic conversation 
Frederick Damn it all, I had to say something 
Victoria You ought to have said a thousand things 
Frederick We only had three minutes 
Victoria Well, go on 

Frederick He said I’m just tootling up to London I’ll 
be up at 3 13 You might go along and break it to 
Victoria Right ho, I said He said, So-long, and I said, 
So-long And we rang off 

Victoria But that was before luncheon. Why didn’t you 
come at once and tell me? 

Frederick To tell you the truth I was a bit shaken by then 
I thought the first thing was to have a double whisky 
and a small soda 

Victoria And what did you do then? 

Frederick Well, I sat down to think. I thought steadily 
for a couple of hours 

Victoria And what have you thought 5 
Frederick Nothin g 



ACT I 


248 HOME AMD BEAUTY 

Victoria* It seems hardlr worth while to have gone without 
% out lunch 

Frederick: It’s a devilish awkward position for me 
\ iCTORi i For you? And uh at about me 5 
Frederick After all, B*J u as my oldest pal He may think 
it ratrtr furnu t* at I\e married his wife 
Victoria Funn} ? 

Frederick On the other hand, he mav not 
Victoria Why d dn’t vou tell me the moment you came 
in, instead of talking about heaven knows what 5 
Frederick It u isn’t a very easy thing to say I was trying 
to find an opportunity to slip it in casually, don’t you 
know 

Victoria [Furious^ ] Wasting precious time 
Frederick [Blana^] Darling, you surely don’t think 
making a scene is ever waste of time 

Victoria I\gw we haven’t got a chance to decide on any- 
thing I haven’t e\ en time to put a frock on 

Frederick What the deuce do you want to put a frock 
on for 5 

Victoria After all, I am his widow I think it would be 
only nice of me to be wearing mourning when he comes 
What did he say when you told him 5 

Frederick When I told him what 5 

Victoria How can you be so stupid* When you told him 
you and I were married 

Frederick But I didn’t tell him. 

Victoria Do you mean to say that he’s coming here under 
the impression that I’m his wife? 

Frederick Why, naturally 

Victoria But why on earth didn’t you tell him at once? 
It was the only thing to do Surely you see that 



ACT I 


HOME AND BEAUTY 


249 

Frederick It didn’t strike me at the moment Besides, it’s 
rather a delicate thing to say on the telephone 
Victoria Well, someone must tell him 
Frederick I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re quite 
the best person to do that 

ictoria P P P Do you think I’m going to do all 
your dirty work^ 

iederick I must say, I don’t think it would come well 
from me 

ectoria I’m not going to deal my darling Bill this bitter, 
bitter blow 

iederick By the way, it’s — it’s jolly he’s alive, isn’t iP 

ectoria Ripping 

iederick I am glad, aren’t you? 

cctoria Yes, awfully glad 

iederick Then you’ll just break the news as gently as 
you can, Victoria 

cctoria [As if she were weighing the matter ] I really don’t 
think that’s my province 

iederick [Exercising all bis charm ] Darling, you’ve got 
so much tact I never knew anyone who could deal 
with a delicate situation as you can You ha\e such a 
light hand You’re so sympathetic And you’ve got 
such a wonderful tenderness 

CTORiA I don’t think you’ve got hold of the right line 
at all There’s only one way to manage a thing like 
this You just take him by the atm and say Look here, 
old man, the fact is 

ederick [Interrupting ] Victoria, you don’t mean to say 
you’re walling to give up the chance of making the 
biggest scene you’ve ever made in your life** 

ctoria. Now look here, Freddie, this is the only thing 
I’ve ever asked you to do for me in my life You know 



z$o 


HOME AND BEAUTY 


ACT I 


how frail I am. I’m not feeling at all welL You’re the 
only man I have to lean on. 

Frederick It’s no good, Victoria I won’t. 

Victoria [Furiously ] Damn you 
Frederick Bv George, here he is 

Victoria I’ve not even powdered my nose Fortunately 
I have no personal vanity 

[She oegtns to powder herself feverishly The voice is 
heard of someone coming up the stairs Hulloa* 
Hulloal Hulloa! Then the door is flung open and 
m bursts William He is a well-set-up y jovial 
fellow , wearing at the moment a very shabby suit 

William Here we are again. 

Victoria Bill! 

Frederick Was I right? 

Victoria I can hardly believe my eyes 
William Give me a kiss, old lady [Hi? seizes her m his 
arms and gives her a hearty kiss Then be turns to Frederick 
They shake hands ] Well, Freddie, old man, how’s life^ 
Frederick Ai, thanks 
William Are you surprised to see me? 

Frederick A little 
Victoria In fact, a good deal 

William I’m jolly glad to see you here, Freddie, old man 
On the way up m the train I cursed myself five times 
for not having asked you to wait with Victoria till I 
rolled up I was afraid you might have some damned 
feeling of delicacy 
Frederick P 

William You see, it struck me you might think Victoria 
and I would want to be alone just the first moment, 
but I should have been as sick as a dog if I hadn’t seen 
your ugly old face here to welcome me By the way, 



ACT I HOME AND BEAUTY 25 I 

you’ve neither of you said }ou uere glad to see me 
Victoria Of course we’re glad. Bill darling 
Frederick Rather 

William Tactful of me to get old Freddie to come round 
and break the news to you, I think, Victoria 
Victoria Yes, darling, and exactly like you 
William It’s just like old times to hear you call me darling 
every other minute 

Frederick It’s one of Victoria’s favourite words 
William You know, I nearly didn’t warn you I thought 
it would be rather a lark to break in on you in the 
middle of the night 

[Frederick and Victoria give a little start 
Victoria I’m just as glad you didn’t do that. Bill 
William What a scene, my word The sleeping beauty on 
her virtuous couch Enter a man in a shocking old 
suit Shrieks of the sleeping beauty It is I, your 
husband Tableau 

Victoria [To turn the conversation ] You’re quite tight, it is 
a shocking old suit Where did you get it* 

William I didn’t get it I pinched it I must say I wouldn’t 
mind getting into some decent things 

[He walks towards a door that leads out of Victoria’s 
room 

Victoria [Hastily] Where are you going* 

William I was going into my dressing-room. Upon my 
soul, I almost forget what I’ve got I had a blue? serge 
suit that was rather dressy 
Victoria I’ve put all your clothes away, darling. 
William Where* 

Victoria In camphor You couldn’t put them on until 
they’ve been aired 
William Hell, said the duchess 



*5* HOME AND BEAUTY ACT I 

[Mrs Shuttle-worth comes m William ts standing 
so that at first she does not see bm 

Mrs Shuttleworth I trunk the little lamb is going on 
nicely, Victoria 

Victoria [Swallowing] Mother 

William I uas just going to ask about the kid 

[Mrs Shlttlewofth jumps out of her skin She 
turns round and sees Willi am 

Mrs Shuttleworth Who is tnat* 

William Who the devil d’vou think it is* 

Mrs Shuttleworth The language and the voice — Bill 
Cardew’s Who is that ? 

William [Walking towards her ] Well, I may be a bit thinner 
and it certainly is a shocking old suit 
Mrs Shuttleworth Don’t come near me or I shall 
scream 

William You can’t escape me I’m going to kiss you 
Mrs Shuttleworth Take him away Don’t let him come 
near me Victoria, who is that man^ 

Frederick Well, Mrs Shuttleworth, it’s Bill Cardew 
Mrs Shuttleworth But he’s dead 
Frederick He doesn’t seem to know it 
Mrs Shuttleworth It’s absurd Will someone wake 
me up 

William Shall I pinch her, and if so, where^ 

Mrs Shuttleworth It’s a horrible dream. Of course he’s 
dead That man’s an imposter 

William Shall I show you the strawberry mark on my 
left shoulder* 

Mrs. Shuttleworth. I tell you Bill Cardew’s dead. 
William Prove it. 

Mas. Shuttleworth [Indigtumtlj ] Prove it? The War 



ACT I HOME AND BEAUTY *53 

Office announced it officially, Victoria went into 
mourning 

William Did she look nice in it? 

Mrs Shuttleworth Sweet Perfectly sweet I insisted on 
her going to Mathilde Mourning must be well made 
or else it looks nothing at ail Why, we had a memorial 
service 

Frederick Fully choral 

William Did you have a memorial service for me, Victoria? 

That was nice of you 
Victoria It was very well attended 
William I’m glad it wasn’t a frost 
Frederick I say, old man, we don’t want to hurrv you, 
you know, but we’re all waiting for some sort of 
explanation 

William I was coming to that I was just giving you time 
to get over your first raptures at seeing me again Have 
you got over them? 

Frederick I can only speak for myself 
William Well, you know, I was damned badly wounded 
Frederick Yes, at Ypres A fellow saw you fail He said 
you were shot through the head He just stopped a 
minute, and saw you were killed, and went on 
William A superficial observer I wasn’t* I was eventually 
picked up and taken to Germany 
Victoria Why didn’t you write? 

William Well, I think I must have been rather dotty for 
a bit I don’t know exactly how long I was in hospital, 
but when I began to sit up and take nourishment I 
couldn’t remember a damned thing My memory had 
completely gone 

Mrs Shuttleworth Strange* To my mind very strange 
William I think my wound must have made me a bit 



254 HOME AND BEAUTY ACT I 

irritable When I was being taken along to a camp I 
had a difference of opinion with a German officer, and 
I laid him out By George, they nearly shot me for 
that Anyhow, they sentenced me to about a hundred 
and fifty years’ imprisonment, and prevented me from 
writing, or making any sign that I was alive 
Victoria But your memory came back? 

Willi am Yes, gradually And, of course, I realised then 
that you’d think I was dead But I had no means of 
letting vou know 

Frederick You might have wired from Rotterdam 
William The lines were so congested They told me Fd 
arrne before my wire 

Mrs Shuttles, qrth It’s all quite probable 
\\ iluam More or less, I flatter myself But you can bet 
your life on one thing Fm not dead, and, what’s more, 
1 propose to live for another forty years, if not fifty 

[Taylor comes m 

Taylor If you please, ma’am, where shall I put the gentle- 
man’s things 3 He told me to bring them upstairs 
William Oh, it’s only a few odds and ends for the journey 
that I got on my way Put them in the dressing-room 
Victoria No, leave that for the moment, Taylor We’ll 
decide presently 
Taylor Very good, madam 

[She goes out 

William What’s the matter with the dressing-room, 
Victoria 5 

Victoria My poor darling, don’t forget your arrival is a 
complete surprise Nothing is ready 
William Don’t let that worry you After what I’ve been 
used to, I can pig it anywhere [Looking at the bed] 
By George, a spring mattress Father will sleep without 
rocking to-night. 



ACT I HOME AND BEAUTY 255 

Mrs Shuttleworth [Firmly ] Something’s got to be 
done 

William How d’you mea sp 

Victoria [Hurriedly ] We haven’t got a cook 

William Oh, you needn’t bother about that Freddie and 
I will do the cooking My speciality is a grilled steak. 
What can you do, Freddie^ 

Frederick I can boil an egg 

William Splendid They always say that’s the one thing 
a chef can’t do Nothing to worry about We’ll get in 
some pate de foie gras and a few oysters, and there you 
are Now let’s have a look at the kid 

Mrs Shuttleworth He’s not very well to-day I don’t 
think he should leave his bed 

William Oh, all right I’ll toddle up and see him I 
haven’t made his lordship’s acquaintance yet What’s 
his name^ 

Victoria [Rather nervously ] Don’t you remember, just 
before you went away, you said you’d like him called 
Frederick if he was a boy 

William Yes, I know I did, but you said you’d see me 
damned You’d quite made up your mind to call him 
Lancelot 

Victoria When I thought you were dead I felt I must 
respect your wishes 

William It must have been a shock if it took you like that 

Victoria Of course, I asked Freddie to be godfather 

William Has the old ruffian been a stand-by to you while 
I’ve been away? 

Victoria I I’ve seen a good deal of him. 

William I Felt you were safe with him, you know* He’s a 
buck 



ACT I 


256 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Frederick I say, you might spare mv blushes while you're 
about it 

Victoria He was verv Lind to me during my — bereave- 
ment 

William Dear old chap I knew you were a tower of 
strength 

Frederick [Sneatirgfru j ] I . • * I tLd what I could, you 
know 

William Well, don't be so modest about it 

Mrs Shuttles orth [More frmlj] I tell you something 
must be done 

William Mv dear Victoria, what is the matter with your 
mother 5 

Frederick [Trjzng to change the conversation ] I think we 
might bust ourselves and have some bubbly to-mght, 
Victoria 

William And damn the expense 

Frederick I wonder if it’s arrived yet I told them to send 
a case m the day before yesterday 

William Have you been running the cellar 5 Rash to let 
him do that, Victoria, very rash 

Victoria I know nothing about wine 

William Freddie knows a thing or two I say, do you 
remember that last time we went on a bat together 5 
You were blind to the world 

Frederick Go to blazes! I was nothing of the sort 

William Pretty little th mg that was Are you as thick 
with her as you used to be? 

[Victoria drams herself up and looks daggers at 
Frederick 

Frederick [Wstb digptty\ I haven't an idea who you're 
referring to* 



ACT I HOME AND BEAtITX *J7 

William Oh, my dear old boy, don’t gut any frills on 
Victoria’s a married woman, and she knows what the 
lads of the village are when they get out A very nice 
little girl indeed, Victoria If I hadn’t been a married 
man Pd have had a shot at cutting Freddie out 
Victoria [Icily ] He always told me he’d never looked at 
a woman in his life 

W luam You shouldn’t encourage the young to he That’s 
what they all say Rapid These wretched aeroplane 
fellows have been turning out engine after engine, and 
they can’t keep pace with him Talk of a lurid past, 
Mrs Shuttleworth, veil your face 
Frederick My poor Bill, your memory! When you 
recovered it, I’m afraid you remembered all sorts of 
things that had never happened 
William Past, did I say? Unless I’m very much mistaken, 
his present wouldn’t bear the closest inspection 
Frederick By George, I’ve hit it. The poor fellow thinks 
he’s being funny 

William [Going on ] I don’t blame you Make hay uhile 
the sun shines I admire the way you can make love to 
three women at a time and make each one believe she’s 
the only one you’ve ever really cared for 
Mrs Shuttleworth [With determination} If someone 
doesn’t do something at once I shall do it myself 
William [In a whisper to Victoria, pointing at Mrs 
Shuttleworth ] Airraids? 

[At that moment a babfs wail is heard outside 
Victoria [With aviation \ Willie 

William Hulloa, what’s thap Is that the kuP [He goes 
swiftly to the door and opens it The crying is heard more 
loudly J Why, it’s coming upstairs You told me the kid 
was in the nursery [Addressing the morse ] Bnng him 
along and let me have a look at him* 



HOME AKD BEAUTY ACT I 

[A nurse, m a neat grey uniform , tomes m with a baby in her 
arms 

Victoria [Desperately ] Freddie, do something, even if it’s 
only something stupid 

Frederick The only thing that occurs to me is to stand on 
m\ head 

William [Joually ] Holloa, hulloa, hulloa 

Frederick That’s not the way to talk to a baby, you owl 
iLLr Not such a baby as all that Can he speak yet. 
Nurse 5 

Nlrse Oh no, sir, not yet 

\\ illi Rather backward, isn’t he 5 Not what I should 
ha\e expected in a son of mine 

[The Nurse gives him a look of surprise, and then with a 
look at Victoria assumes an appearance of extreme 
primness 

Nlrse I never knew a baby talk as young as that, sir 

William Upon my soul, there’s not much of htm Looks 
to me rather a stumer I think we’ve been done, Victoria 

Nurse [Indignantly ] Oh, I don’t think you ought to say 
that, sir He’s a very fine boy He weighs more than a 
good many do when they’re six months 

William What’s that 5 How old is he? 

Nurse Four months last Tuesday, sir 

William You’ve been busy in my absence, Victoria. 

Victoria Freddie, for goodness’ sake speak Don’t stand 
there like a stuffed tomato 

Mrs* Shuttleworth Leave the room, Nannie 

\Tbe Nurse, pursing her lips, intrigued and perplexed, 
goes out 

Frederick [Trying to take it lightly] The fact is, you’ve 
made rather an absurd mistake* You’ve been away so 
long that of course there’s a good deal you don’t know 



ACT I HOME AND BEAUTY *J9 

William Fm a simple creature. 

Frederick Well, to cut a long story short 

William What story? 

Frederick I wish you wouldn’t interrupt me Fm telling 
you as quickly as I can To cut a long story short, the 
infant that’s just gone out of the room is not your son 

William I had a sort of suspicion he wasn’t I tell you that 
frankly 

Victoria Oh, the fool The blithering nincompoop. 

William Well, who the deuce is his father? 

Frederick In point of fact, I am. 

William. You? You don’t mean to say you’re married? 

Frederick Lots of people are In fact, marriage has been 
quite the thing during the war 

William Why on earth didn’t you tell me? 

Frederick Hang it all, man, you’ve been dead for the last 
three years How could I? 

William [Setting his hand] Well, I’m jolly glad to hear it, 
old chap I knew you’d be caught one of these days 
You were a wily old bird, but — ah, well, we all come to 
it My very best congratulations 

Frederick That’s awfully good of you I’m — er — -I’m 
staying here, you know 

William Are you? That’s first rate Is your missus here 
too? 

Frederick. It’s rather difficult to explain 

William Don’t tell me she’s only got one eye 

Frederick Can’t you guess why Fm staying here? 

William- No [He looks round the room and his eyes jail on 
Mrs Shuttleworth ] You don’t mean to say you’ve 
married Victoria’s mother? 

Frederick No, not exactly 



ACT I 


260 HOME AND BEAUTY 

William What does he mean by not exactly? I hope you 
haven’t been t rifling with the affections of my mother-in- 
law 

Mrs Shuitleworth Do I look as if I were the mother of 
that babv* 

William \\ e live m an age of progress One should keep 
an open mind about things 

Frederick You quite misunderstand me. Bill 

Willi mi Is there nothing between you and Victoria’s 
mother* 

Frederick Certainly not 

William Well, I’m sorry I should have liked to be your 
son-in-law And you would bave done the tight thing by 
her, wouldn’t vou* 

Victoria Eeallv, Bill, I don’t think you should talk about 
my mother like that 

William If he’s compromised her he ought to marry her 

\ icroRiA He hasn’t compromised her and he can’t marry 
her 

William I don’t want to seem inquisitive, but if you didn’t 
marry Victoria’s mother, who did you mar ry? 

Frederick Damn you, I married Victoria 


END OF THE FIRST ACT 



THE SECOND ACT 


The drawing-room at Victoria’s bouse It ts very h^arre 
Victoria has put the decoration into the hands of an artist m 
futurism , and the result is very modem , outrageous , fantastic , 
i ut not ugly There is no fire in the grate and all the windows art 
open Frederick is sitting m a greatcoat with a rug round his 
legs, reading the paper Mrs Shuttleworth enters 

Mrs Shuttleworth Tm going now. 

Frederick Are you 5 

Mrs Shuttleworth I’m taking my dear little grand- 
children away with me 

Frederick Are you 5 

Mrs Shuttleworth You don’t seem in a very good temper 
this morning 

7 rederick Pm not 

Mrs Shuttleworth Victoria will be down presently 

Frederick Will she 5 

Mrs Shuttijeworth I should have thought you’d ask how 
she was after that dreadful shock. 

Frederick Would you 5 

Mrs Shuttleworth She’s better, poor darling, but she’s 
terribly shaken. I put her to bed at once with hot-water 
bottles 

Frederick Did you? 

Mrs Shuttleworth* Of course, she was totally unfit to 
discuss this temble situation yesterday 

Frederick Was she? 



ACT n 


Z6t HOME AND BEAUTY 

Mrs Shuttleworth Surely you can see that for yourself 
The only thing was to keep her perfectly quiet till she’d 
had time to recover a little 
Frederick Was it 5 

Mrs Shuttleworth But this morning I have no doubt 
you’ll find her prepared to go into the matter 
Frederick Shall P 

Mrs Shuttle-worth If vou have nothing else you wish to 
say to me I think I’ll go now 
Frederick Will vou^ 

[Mrs Shuttles orth purses her bps very tight and goes 
towards the door At that moment Taylor comes tn 
Taylor Mr Leicester Paton has called, madam Mrs 
Lowndes says, will tou see him a minute She’s just 
getting out of her bath 

Mrs Shuttleworth Certainly Show him m here 
Taylor Very good, madam* 

[Exit 

Frederick I’ll go 

Mrs Shuttle V r orth I wonder what he wants 
Frederick Perhaps he wants Victoria’s permission to pay 
you his addresses 

[He goes out In a minute Taylor announces Leicester 
Paton and then goes out 
Taylor Mr Leicester Paton 

Paton Your daughter rang me up this morning I thought 
the best thing I could do was to come along at once 
Mrs Shuttleworth That’s too good of you I’m sure if 
anything can be done you are the man to do it 
Paton It’s an extraordinary situation 
Mrs Shuttleworth Of course, I think it was very 
inconsiderate of Bill to turn up like that 
Paton Poor thing, she must be quite upset. 



ACT n 


HOME AND BEAUTY 


263 

Mrs Shuttleworth Well, I can only tell you that the 
shock entirely took the wave out of her hair She onlv 
had it done yesterday, and it was as straight as a telegraph 
pole this morning 
Paton You don’t say so 
Mrs Shuttleworth Here she is 

[Victoria comes m She has her dressing-gown on and 
bedroom slippers Her hair is only partly dore , but she 
manages to look perfectly ravishing 
Victoria I didn’t want to keep you waiting I came down 
just as I was You mustn’t look at me. 

Paton I can’t help it 

Victoria What nonsense I know I look a perfect fright, 
but fortunately I have no personal vanity 
Paton [Holding her hand\ What a catastrophe! You must 
be beside yourself 

Victoria [With a charming smile ] I knew I could rely on 
your sympathy 

Paton What in heaven’s name are you going to do^ 
Victoria It’s because I haven’t an idea that I telephoned to 
you You see, you’ve taught me to bring all my diffi- 
culties to you 

Paton To whom else should you bring them? We must 
think. We must discuss the matter 
Victoria The position is impossible 
Paton It’s wonderful that you bear it so bravely I was 
expecting to find you in a state of collapse 
Victoria [With a flash of the eyes ] With you to lean on^ 
Paton I suppose you’ve been having the most ternble 
scenes 

Victoria Heartrending You see, they both adore me. 
Paton, And you? 

Victoria P I only want to do — my duty. 



ACT II 


Z&4 HOME AND BEAITT 

Paton How like you! How exactly like jou 

Mrs ShuttleyvOkth If there’s nothing more I can do foi 
you, darling I think I’ll go now 

Victoria Do, darling 

Mrs Shuttleworth [Shaking bands mfb Leicester P aton] 
Be verv kind to her 
Paton I’ll trv 

[Mrs Splttleworth goes out 

Victoria [Almost tenderly ] It was sweet of you to come 
and see me at once I was afraid you wouldn’t have 
time 

Pa *i on Do you imagine I should allow anything to stand in 
the wav when you sent for me 2 
Victor! A Oh, but you know I shouldn’t like to think that 
you were putting \ ourself out on my account 
P atom I wish I could pretend I were As a matter of fact, I 
was only going down to see a place I’ve just bought in 
the country, and as I wanted to try my new Rolls I 
thought I’d kill two birds with one stone 
Victori a I didn’t know you were buying a place 
Paton Oh, it’s a very modest little affair The park is not 
more than three hundred acres, and there are only 
twenty-eight bedrooms But you see, Fm a bachelor. I 
want so little 
Victoria Where is it? 

Patch It’s near Newmarket 
Victoria A very nice neighbourhood. 

Paton A man m my position is bound to do something for 
the good of the country, and it seems to me tha* to 
patronize a good old English sport, which gives em- 
ployment to numbers of respectable men, is an occupa- 
tion which is truly patriotic Fm going to up 
racing 



LCT II 


HOME AND BEAUTY 


26 5 

Victoria I think it’s splendid of you So many men waste 
their money on their own selfish pleasures It’s such a 
relief to come across anyone uho is determined to make 
a thoroughly good use of it I’ve often wondered that 
you didn’t go into Parliament 
Paton For the last four years I’ve been too busy winning 
the war to bother about governing the nation 
Victoria Yes, but now They want strong men of keen 
intelligence and dominating personality 
P vrONf It’s not impossible that very soon I shall have the 
opportunity to show of what metal I am made But not 
m the House of Commons 
Victoria [All to pieces ] In the House of Lords^ 

Paton [Roguishly ] Ah, you mustn’t ask me to betray the 
confidence of the Prime Minister 
Victoria You’ll look sweet in scarlet and ermine 
Paton [Gallantly ] But it’s too bad of me to talk about my 
concerns when yours are so much more important 

Victoria Oh, you can’t think how I love to hear you talk 
about yourself One feels a brain behind every word you 
say 

Paton It’s easy to be brilliant when one has a sympathetic 
listener 

Victoria Of course. Bill and Freddie are dear good 
fellows, but their conversation is a little limited During 
the war it was rather smart to talk about guns, and flying 
machines, and flea-bags, but now . 

Paton I understand you so well, dear lady. 

Victoria Why do you call me that ? 

Paton Oui of pure embarrassment. I don’t know whether 
to call you Mrs Cardew or Mrs Lowndes 

Victoria Why don’t you split the difference and call me 
Victoria? ^ 



l 66 HOME AND BEALTY ACT II 

Paton Mav P 

Victoria [Gwmg hm her band ] It will make me feel that 
you are not an entire stranger to me 
Paton [With surprise ] Your weddmg rings^ You always 
used to wear two 

Victoria As long as I thought that poor Bill was dead I 
didn’t want to forget him 
Paton But why have \ ou remo\ ed them botlP 
\ ictori i Tm all at sea I’m married to two men, and I feel 
as if I were married to neither 

PitON I wish vou weren’t I wish with all my heart you 
weren’t 

\ ictori * How emphatic you are Why? 

P *ton Can’t you guess^ 

Victoria [Looking down ] I must be very stupid 
Paton Don’t you know that I dote upon you? I curse my 
unhappy fate that I didn’t meet you before you were 
married 

Victoria Would you have asked me to marry you^ 

Paton Morning, noon and night until you consented 
Victoria I never want a Pans model so much as when I 
icnow it’s just been sold to somebody else I wonder if 
you a want to marry me if I were free^ 

Paton Yes With all my heart 
Victoria But Pm not free 

Paton And you — if you were, would you marry me? 
Victoria Tell me, why do you wear spats> 

Paton I think they’re so neat 

Victoria Oh, not because you suffer from cold feeP 

Paton Oh no, my circulation is excellent 

Victoria* I don’t believe you’re the sort of man who’d ever 
take no for an answer 



ACT II HOME AND BEAUTY z6j 

Paton You’re perfectly adorable 

Victoria [With a smile> shyly ] I wonder if you’d take me 
out to luncheon^ 

Paton Give me the chance 

Victoria Pll just dress myself Come back in half an hour, 
and you’ll find me ready 
Paton Very well 

Victoria Good-bye for the present 

[They go out together William’s voice is heard outside 

William Victoria [He comes tn 9 but sees nobody tn the room ] 
Hulloa! [Shouting ] Freddie 
Frederick [ Outside ] Hulloa 
William Freddie 

[Frederick comes tn with his rug and his paper 
William I say, I can’t find my boots 
Frederick Your boots^ What do you want your boots 
for* 

William To put them on What else d’you think I want 
them for* 

Frederick I saw them lying about I thought 1 a CK-ctcr 
put them away m case of accidents 
William Silly ass. Where did you put them? 

Frederick I was just trying to think 
William You don’t mean to say you don’t know where 
they are 

Frederick Of course I know where they are because I put 
them there, but I don’t happen to remember just at the 
moment 

William Well, you hurry up and remember 
Frederick Don’t fuss me. I can’t possibly remember if 
you fuss me 

William Trv and think where you put them. 



*68 HOME AND BEAUTY ACT II 

Frederick [Looking doubt fully at a vase ] I know I didn’t put 
them in one of the flower vases 
William So I should hope 
Frederick They might be in the coal-scuttle 
William If they are I’ll black your face with them 
Frederick [Looking tn the scuttle , with trtumpb ] I said they 
weren’t in the coal scuttle 

William Fathead I don’t want to know where they’re 
not I want to know where they are 

Frederick If I knew that I shouldn’t be hunting for them 

William If vou don’t find them in two and a half seconds 
I’ll break e% ery bone in vour body 
Frederick It’s no good losing your hair about it If we 
can’t find your boots we can’t 

William [Irritably ] I say, what the devil have you got all 
the windows open for 5 

Frederick I was trying to warm the room a bit Besides, 
they say it’s healthy 

William A short life and a merry one for me I like a fug 

[He shuts the windows 
F redbrick That won’t make it any warmer I’ve tned that 
William You silly ass, why don’t you light the fire 5 
Frederick Don’t be so damned unpatriotic Victoria 
must have a fire in her bedroom, and we must have one 
in the nursery 
William Why 5 

Frederick, For the children’s bath 
William [Astonished] What, every day? 

Frederick Yes, they wash children a lot nowadays* 
William Poor little beggars 

Frederick [Jumping up and going towards him ] Where the 
devil did you get that suit 5 



ACT It HOME AND BEAUTY Z 69 

William Rather saucy, I flatter myself Victoria seat it in 
to me 

Frederick She needn’t have sent you the only new suit I’ve 
had since the war Upon my soul, I think it’s a bit thick 

William Well, you didn’t like the suit I wore yesterday 
You can’t expect me to go about in fig-leaves unless you 
have the house properlv warmed 

Frederick If you’d had the decency to ask me you might 
have had this suit I’ve got on 

William Thanks, but I don’t altogether like that one It’s 
a bit baggy at the knees for me 

Frederick You’re very much mistaken if you think you’re 
gomg to wear all the new clothes and I’m going to wear 
all the old ones 

William If you’re gomg to be shirty about it, where the 
devil did you get that pm? 

Frederick Oh, Victoria gave it me on my birthday 

William Well, it’s mine She gave it me on my birthday 
first And where did you get those links? 

Frederick Victoria gave them to me as a Christmas 
present 

William Oh, did she 1 * She gave them to me as a Christmas 
present before she gave them to you You jolly well take 
them off 

Frederick III see you blowed first At your death you left: 
everything to her in your will If she chose to give them 
to me it’s no business of yours 

William Weil, I’m not gomg to argue about it, but I think 
it’s dashe djbad form to swa nk about m a dead .man’s 
jewellery 

Frederick* By the way, did you ever have a hammered gold 
cigarette-case^ 

William Rather That was Victoria’s wedding present to 
me. Did you get it too? 



270 HOME AND BEAUTY ACT IX 

Frederick Thrifty woman, Victoria. 

William I sav, unless I have a fire I shall turn into the 
Albert Memorial 

Frederick Apply a match and see what happens 

William Thanks — I will 

[He stakes a match and lights thfre The flames leap up 

Frederick Now I’ll take my coat off Victoria will be 
furious 

William That’s vour look out You’ll have to take the 
responsibility 

Frederick It’s got nothing to do with me. You’re the 
master of this house 

William Not at all I am but an honoured guest 

Frederick Oh no, the moment you appeared I sank into 
insignificance 

William My dear fellow, where did I sleep last mght^ In 
the spare bedroom That proves conclusively that I am a 
guest and nothing more 

Frederick And where the devil do you think I slept^ Here 

William Why did you do that ? You were perfectly sober 
when I went to bed 

Frederick Victoria said I couldn't sleep m the nest room 
to hers now you were back. 

William Oh, well, I dare say you made yourself very 
comfortable on the sofa 

Frederick Look at the damned thing. 

’William By the way, what’s the matter with the furniture? 

Frederick When you were killed Victoria was naturally 
very much upset, so she had the drawing-room re- 
decorated 

William I dare say I'm not very bright so early in the 
morning, but I don’t quite see the connection* 



ACT n HOME AND BEAUTY 271 

Frederick You see, the old room had too many painful 
associations She w anted to distract her mind 
William Oh, I was under the impression that you’d 
undertaken that 

Frederick [VVitb dignity] I was s\mpathetic That is 
surely what you would have liked me to be 
William Of course Fm not blaming vou 
Frederick If you’d seen Victoria in tears you couldn’t 
expect a man not to try and console her 
William She’s the only woman I ever knew who looks as 
pretty when she cries as when she smiles It’s a great 
power 

Frederick I knew you’d take it like a sensible man, 
William Quite so 

Frederick When would you like me to clear out? 

William My dear fellow, why should you wish to do that^ 
Surely you don’t for a moment imagine that I shall be 
in the way I propose to make my visit quite a brief one 
Frederick Fm sorry to hear that Victoria will be dis- 
appointed But of course that’s no concern of mine 
You and your wife must arrange that between you 
William My dear old thing, you entirely misunderstand 
me I am not the man to come between husband and 
wife 

Frederick What the devil do you mean? 

William Well, if it comes to that, what the devil do you 
mean? 

[Victoria comes m She now wears a most becoming 
morning dress She comes a box of chocolates* 
Victoria Good-mormng 

[She goes to William and gives km her cheek to kiss* 
William Good-mormng 
Victoria Good-moming. 



HOME AND BEAUTY 


act n 


PJZ 

[She goes up to Frederick and gives bm the other cheek to 
kiss 

Frederick Good-morning 

Victoria [W tb a nod of the head towards William ] I went 
to him first because he's been away so long 

Frederick Naturally And he was your husband long 
before I was 

Victoria I don't want either of you to be jealous of the 
other I adore you both and I’m not going to show any 
favouritism 

Frederick I don't see why he should have the spare bed- 
room, while I have to double up on the drawing-room 
sofa, 

William I like that What about the fatted calP 

Frederick* Not unless you've brought your coupons with 
you 

Victoria [Catching stgbt of the fire ] Who lit that fire* 

Frederick He did 

William It was your match 

[Victoria draws up a chatr and sits down in front of the 
fire m such a way as to prevent any warmth from 
getting into the room 

Victoria [Eating a chocolate ] Of course you don't car e if 
we run so short of coal that my wretched babies die of 
double pneumonia. It's simply criminal to have a fire 
here, 

William, I'm tortured by the pangs of remorse But, need 
you monopolize it? 

Victoria If there is a fire I may as well get some benefit out 
of it 

Frederick, Are those chocolates you're eating, Victoria? 

Victoria. Yes, Bobbie Curtis sent them to me. They're 
delicious 



ACTn HOME AND BEAUT? *7$ 

Frederick Are they? 

Victoria It’s so hard to get good chocolates just now 
Frederick I know it is I haven’t tasted one for months 
Victoria \Btiwg a chocolate] Oh, this one’s soft inside 
How hateful Would either ot you like lP 
William \Lromcally ] It seems a pity to v aste it, Victoria 
Victoria [Eating it ] I dare say you’re right One oughtn’t 
to be too particular in war-time 
William Ah, I suppose that’s v hat you thought when you 
married Freddie 

Victoria I did that for your sake, darling He v as such a 
pal of yours 

Frederick She was simply inconsolable when you were 
killed 

William It’s lucky you were there to console her. 

Victoria It was Freddie who broke the news to me He 
thought of the memorial service He came to see me 
twice a day 

William And with your practical mind I suppose you 
thought it hardly worth his while to wear out shoe- 
leather when a trifling ceremony might save him the 
journey 

Victoria Of course we waited the year I told him he 
mustn’t think of it till the year was up 
William With leather so expensive? But you always had 
nice feelings, Victoria. 

Victoria You know how helpless I am without a man. I 
knew you wouldn’t wish me to remain a widow. 
Frederick. I felt I was the proper person to look after her 
William. Hie way you’ve both of you sacrificed yourselves 
for my sake is almost more than I can bear I can only 
hope that you didn’t have to force your inclinations too 
much? 



274 HOME AND BEAUTT ACT II 

Frederick What do you mean by that? 

William Well, since it appears you married entirely for my 
sake, I presume there was nothing between you but — 
shall we say esteem? 

Victoria Oh, but. Bill darling, didn't I tell you that I 
adored Freddie^ It was his wonderful friendship for you 
that won my heart 

Frederick She was so devoted to you. Bill, I should have 
been a brute not to care for her 

William One would almost think you fell in love with one 
another 

Victoria Only over your dead body, darling 

Frederick I should have thought you'd be rather touched 
by it 

William It gives me quite a lump in my throat 

Frederick And Victoria never forgot you, old man Did 
you, Victoria? 

Victoria Never 

Frederick I know quite well that I only came second in her 
heart So long as you were round and about she would 
never have thought of me 

William Oh, I don't know about that Even the most 
constant woman likes a change now and then. 

Frederick No, no I know Victoria's faithful heart She 
can never really love any man but you Victoria, you 
know how I adore you You are the only woman in the 
world for me. But I realize that there is only one thing 
for me to do Bill has come back. There is only one 
course open to me as a gentleman and a man of honour 
It is a bitter, bitter sacrifice, but I am equal to it . I 
renounce all rights in you. I -will go away, aunser and g 
sadder man, ami leave you to Bill Good-bye, Victoria 
Wipe your mouth and give me one more kiss before we 
part for ever. 



ACT n HOME AND BEAUTY *75 

V ictoria Oh, how beautiful of you, Freddie What a soul 
you’ve got 

Frederick: Good-bye, Victoria Forget me and live 
happily with a better man than I 
Victoria I shall never forget you, Freddie Good-bye 
Go quickly or I shall break down 

[William has planted himself firmly in front of the door 
Frederick goes up to him with outstretched hand 

Frederick Good-bye, Bill Be kind to her. I couldn’t do 
this for anyone but you 
William [Deliberately] Nothing doing 
Frederick I am going out of your life for ever. 

William Not in those boots 

Frederick Damn it all, what’s the matter with them? 
They’re not yours 

William A figure of speech, my lad 
Frederick I don’t think this is exactly the moment for 
flippancy You get away from that door 
William You shall only pass over my dead body. 
Frederick What’s the good of that? I shouldn’t get the 
chance then 

Victoria Bill, why prolong a painful scene^ 

William My dear Victoria, I am not the m an to accept a 
sacrifice like that No The War Office has decided that 
I’m dead You’ve had a memorial service You’ve 
redecorated the drawing-room. You are happy It 
would be monstrously selfish if I disturbed a state of 
thin gs which is eminently satisfactory to you both. I will 
not come between you 
Victoria Oh, Bill, how noble. 

William Victoria, I am a gentleman and a soldier This 
being that you see before you, notwithstanding the 
tolerable suit he wears, is a dise mbodied wraith. To all 



ZJ 6 HOME AND BEAUTY ACT H 

intents and purposes I am as dead as mutton I will 
remain so 

Frederick Victoria will never be happy with me now that 
you've come back 

William Not another word She is yours 

Frederick My dear Bill, you know me very little I am 
lazy, selfish, bad-tempered, mean, gouty, and pre- 
disposed to cancer, tuberculosis, and diabetes 

William This is terrible, my poor Freddie You must take 
the greatest care of your health, and dear Victoria will do 
her best to correct you r defects of character 

Frederick If you really loved her you wouldn't expose her 
to the certain misery that it must be to live with a man 
like me 

William Freddie, old man, I can no longer conceal from 
you that with a constitution ruined by dissipation m my 
youth and broken by the ravages of war I have not much 
longer to live Besides, Victoria knows only too well 
that I am vindictive and overbearing, extravagant, 
violent and mendacious 

Victoria I understand it all You're both so noble You're 
both so heroic You're both so unselfish 

[Taylor comes m 

Taylor If you please, ma'am, someone to see you from the 
Alexandra Employment Agency 

[She oands her a slip of paper . 

Victoria Oh, send her in at once. 

Taylor, Very good, madam. 

Victoria. A cook* A cook* A cook. 

Frederick: Good business Is she plain or good^ 

Victoria* Ham and good. 

William, How like a woman. 



ACT II HOME AND BEAUTY 277 

[Taylor shows m Mrs Pogson and closes the door 
behind her Mrs Pogson is large and heavy and 
authoritative She is dressed like the widow of an 
undertaker 

Mrs Pogson Good-morning, 

Victoria Good-morning 

[Mrs Pogson looks round her, and seeing a handy chair 
sits down on it 

Mrs Pogson I ’ave your name on the list the Alexandra 
gave me as requiring a cook I don’t know as I very 
much like this neighbourhood, but I thought I’d just pop 
in and see if the position looked like suiting me 

Victoria \Lngrattaimgly ] I’m sure you’d find it a very nice 
one 

Mrs Pogson I couldn’t stand them air-raids and I made up 
my mind I wouldn’t come back to London not so long as 
the war lasted And the streets all dark and I don’t know 
what all But of course I prefer London. 

Victoria Naturally 

Mrs Pogson And now that the war’s over if I can find 
anything that suits me I don’t mind coming back. Why 
did the last cook leave you^ 

Victoria She was going to be marned. 

Mrs Pogson Ah, that’s what all you ladies say Of course, 
it may be so, and on the other ’and it may not 

Victoria She told me she hadn’t had a nicer place for the 
last three months 

Mrs Pogson Now before we go any further I’d just like to 
know one thing Have you got a garage^ 

Victoria Well, we have, but there are no cars in it We 
sold our car 

Mrs Pogson Oh, well, that would be very convenient, I 
always bring my Ford with me. 



HOME AND BEAUTY 


ACT n 


Z78 


Victoria Yes, of course, 

Mrs Fogson Do you keep men-servants? 

Victoria No, Fm afraid not 

Mrs Fogson- [Severely ] IVe always been used to men- 
servants 

Victoria You see, since the war . 

Mrs Fogson* Oh, you don’t ’are to tell me I know it’s 
very difficult And I suppose you ’avea’t got a kitchen- 
maid cither* 

Victoria One can’t get one for love or money 
Mrs Pogson That’s a thing I shall never forgive the 
Government for Taking all them gids and putting them 
in munitions Still, that’s not your fault, I will say that 
There’s many cooks I know as say they will not go 
without a kitchen-maid, but I say, it’s war-time and 
everyone ought to do his bit If I must do without a 
kitchen-maid, well, I will do without a kitchen-maid 
Victoria I think it’s very patriotic of you 
Mrs Fogson Of course, I leave you to make any arrange- 
ments you like about lighting the kitchen fire AU I ask 
is that it should be alight when I come down in the 
morning 

Victoria Oh! Naturally, I see your point But I don’t 
quite know how I should manage about that 
Mrs, Fogson In my last position the g entle man of the 
house ht the fire every morning, 

Victoria. Oh, I hadn’t thought of that 
William I wouldn’t if I were you, Victoria. 

Mrs Fogson A very nice gentleman he was too Brought 
me up a cup of tea and a slice of thin bread and butter 
every day before I got up 

Victoria Fm sure we’d do everything we could to make 
you comfortable. 



ACT IX H6ME AND BEAUTY *79 

Mrs Pogson What cooking would you requite* 

Victoria Pm sure you’d satisfy us there I can see at once 
that you’re a first-rate cook 

Mrs Pogson I don’t ’old with a lot of fancy things meself, 
not in war-time I say, be thankful you get anything to 
eat at all 

Victoria Of course, I know it’s very difficult to have a 
great variety now I’m sure you’ll do the best you can 
We’re out for luncheon a good deal and we dine at 
eight 

Mrs Pogson Of course, you can please yourselves there, 
but I never do any cooking after middle-day 
Victoria That’s rather awkward 

Mrs Pogson If you don’t think I’ll suit you I needn’t 
waste any more of my time I’ve got ten to a dozen ladies 
that I must interview this morning 
Victokj i Oh, I wouldn’t make a point of that I dare say 
we can arrange our hours to suit you 
Mrs Pogson Well, I always serve up my dinner at one 
o’clock A nice little bit of meat and a milk pudding 
And should you want anything after that you can always 
’ave the cold meat for your supper and any little sweet I 
’appen to ’ave in the kitchen 
Victoria I see And what — what wages are you asking* 
Mrs Pogson I don’t know as Pm asking any wages Pm 
prepared to accept a salary of two pound a week 
Victoria That’s rather more than I’ve been in the habit of 
paying 

Mrs Pogson If you aren’t prepared to pay that there are 
plenty as are, 

Victoria We won’t quarrel about that Pm sure you’re 
worth the money* 

Mrs Pogson I don’t think there arc any more questions I 
need ask you 



ACT n 


280 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Victoria No, I think that's everything When would you 
be able to come w? 

Mrs Pogson I’ll just go and see these other ladies and see 
what they ’ave to offer me, and then if I come to the 
conclusion that you*!! suit me I’ll just drop you a line 

Victoria I do hope you’ll come here I’m sure you’d be 
happy 

Mrs Pogson That’s what I alw ai s say, the great thing is to 
be ’appv And I like your face I don’t mind telling you 
that I’ve taken quite a fancy to you 

Victoria I’m verv glad to hear it 

Mrs Pogson There, I was just going away and I knew I ’ad 
one more question to ask you My ’ead’s like a perfect 
sieve this morning How many are you in the family^ 

Victoria. Well, I have two children, but they give no 
trouble at all, and just at present they’re not staying here 

Mrs Pogson Oh, I don’t mind children I’ve had too 
many meself to do that 

Victoria And then there’s just me and these two gentle- 
men 

Mrs Pogson I suppose you are married to one of them. 

Victoria I don’t know what you mean by that I’m 
married to both 

Mrs Pogson Both? Legal ly^ 

Victoria Of course 

Mrs Pogson Well, I do call that going it [With growing 
indication ] If it ’ad been just a gentleman friend I’d ’ave 
’ad nothing to say I’ve lived in the very best families 
and Fm quite used to that It keeps the lady quiet and 
good-tempered and she ain’t always fussing about one 
thing and another Ami if he lives in the ’ouse she ain’t 
likely to keep the dinner waiting for ’alf an hour every 
other day But if you’re married to ’im that’s quite 
another thing It’s not justice If you ladies think 



ACT XZ HOME AND BEAUTY t$l 

you’re going to ’ave two ’usbands while many a working 
woman can’t even get one — well, all I say is, it’s not 
justice I’ve bin a Conservative all me life, but thank 
God I’ve got a vote now, and I tell you straight what 
Fm going to do, I’m going to vote Labour. 

[She flaunts out of the room and slams the door Behind her 
William Bang! 

Victoria f ‘Furiously ] The position is intolerable I must 
have one husband There are all sorts of wavs in which a 
husband is indispensable But only one I cannot and 
will not have two 
Frederick I have an idea 
William It’s sure to be a rotten one. 

Frederick Let’s draw lots 
William I knew it was a rotten one. 

Victoria How d’you mean, Freddie^ 

Frederick. Well, we’ll take two pieces of paper and make a 
cross on one of them Then well fold them up and put 
them m a hat We’ll draw, and the one who draws the 
cross gets Victoria 

Victoria [Mollified} That’ll be rather thrilling 
William I’d sooner toss for it Pm lucky at tossing. 
Frederick Do you mean to say you funk it? 

William I don’t exactly funk it IPs an awful risk to take 
Victoria. It’ll be so romantic. Get some paper, Freddie 
Frederick All right 

William [Worried] I don’t like it. Hus isn’t my lucky 
day I saw the new moon through glass. I knew 
something was going wrong the moment I opened my 
egg this morning 

[Frederick goes to a desk mi takes out a sheet of paper 
which he terns m fm* Tbm mtb bis hack turned be 
draws a cross 



ACT II 


282 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Frederick Whoever draws the blank paper renounces all 
naim to Victoria. He vanishes from the scene like a puff 
of smoke He will never be heard of again 
William I don’t like it I repeat that I only do it under 
protest 

Victoria Now, Bill, don’t be disagreeable the moment you 
come back, 

Frederick You’ll have plenty of time for that during the 
nest forty years 

Victoria You seem rather above yourself, Freddie 
Supposing jou draw the blank? 

Frederick I saw a dappled horse this morning What 
shall we put them w? 

Victoria The waste-paper basket 1$ the best thing 
Frederick I’ll get it Now you quite understand One of 
these papers has a cross on it I will put the two papers 
m the basket, and Victoria shall hold it It is agreed that 
whoever draws a blank shall leave the house at once 
William [Faintly ] Yes 

Frederick {Handing her the basket] Here you are, Victoria 
William [With agitation] Shake ’em well 
Victoria All right I say, isn’t this thrilling? 

Frederick You draw first. Bill 
William [Shaking like a leaf] No, I can’t I really can’t 
Frederick It’s your right You are Victoria’s first 
husband 

Victoria He’s right there. Bill You must have the first 
dip in the lucky bag, 

William This is awful. I’m sweating like a pig 
Victoria, It’s too exciting My heart is simply going pit-a- 
pat I wonder which of you will get me. 

William [Hesitating ] Going over the top is nothing to it 
Frederick. Courage, old man, courage 



ACT II HOME AND BBAUTT Z$ 3 

William It's go good, I can’t You must remember that 
my nerves are all to pieces after three years in a German 
prison 

Victoria I see how much you love me. Bill 

Frederick Shut your eyes, man, and make a plunge for the 
basket 

William The only thing is to get it over I wish Fd been 
a better man 

[He draws out one of the pieces of paper and Frederick 
takes the other For a moment be looks at it neriously > 
unable to bring himself to unfold ft Frederick 
opens his ,, gives a sudden cry , and starts back. 

Frederick [Dramatically ] Blank Blank Blank 

[William gives a start , and quickly unravels the paper m 
his hand He stares at it in horror 

William My God! 

Victoria Oh, my poor Freddie! 

Frederick [With enormous feeling ] Don’t pity me, victoria 
I want all my courage now I’ve lost you and I must bid 
you good-bye for ever 

Victoria Oh, Freddie, this is too dreadful! You must 
come and see me from time to time 

Frederick I couldn’t That is more than I could bear I 
shall never forget you You are the only woman I have 
ever loved 

[At these words William looks up and observes him 
curiously 

Victoria You’ll never love another, will you? I shouldn’t 
like that 

Frederick How could I love anyone after you? Why, you 
might as well ask a man to see when the sun has gone 
down. 

William He can turn on the dbctrtc light, you know. 



ACT II 


284 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Frederick Ah, you can jest I am a broken-hearted and a 
rrnned man r 

William I was only suggesting the possibility of con- 
solation 

Victoria I don’t think that’s very nice of you. Bill I 
thought what he said extremely poetic Besides, I don’t 
want him to be consoled 

Frederick Give me one last kiss, Victoria. 

Victoria Darling! 

[He seizes her m hts arms and kisses her 

Frederick [The hero of romance ] Good-bye I go mto the 
night 

William Oh, aren’t you going at once 5 

Frederick I am 

William Well, it happens to be the middle of the day 

Frederick [With dignity] I was speaking m metaphor 

William Before you go you might just let me have a look 
at that other bit of paper, the one with the blank on it 

Frederick [Walking towards the door ] Oh, don’t delay me 
with foolish trifling 

William [Intercepting him ] I’m sorry to detain you 

Frederick. [Trjing to dodge round him ] Why d’you want to 
see it? 

William [Preventing him ] Mere curiosity 

Frederick [Trying the other side ] Really, Bill, I don’t know 
how you can be so heartless as to give way to curiosity 
when my heart is one great aching wound. 

William I should like to have the two pieces framed, an 
interesting souvenir of an important occasion. 

Frederick Any other piece will do just as well I threw 
that one in the fire 

William. Oh no, you didn’t. You put it in your pocket. 



HOME AND BEAUTT 


ACT It 


* 8 $ 


Frederick I’ve had enough of this Can’t you see that 
Fm a desperate man? 

William Not half so desperate as I am If you don’t give 
me that bit of paper quietly I’ll take it from you 
Frederick Go to blaaesi 
William Give it up 

[He makes a dash for Frederick, who dodges, he pursues 
him round the room 


Victoria What’s the matter* Have you both gone mad? 
William You’ll have to sooner or later. 

Frederick I’ll see you damned first 
Victoria Why don’t you give it him? 

Frederick Not if I know it 
Victoria Why noP 

Frederick I won’t have my feelings hurt like this 
William I’ll hurt a lot more than your feelings m a minute 
[Frederick makes a sudden holt for the door t but 
William catches him 

William Gotcher Now will you give it up^ 

Frederick Not on your life 
William FU break your bally arm if you don’t 
Frederick' [Writhing ] Oh, you devil! Stop it. You’re 
hurting me 

William* Fm trying to. 

Frederick: Hit him on the head with the poker, Victoria 
William Don’t be unlady-hke, Victoria. 

Frederick You filthy Boche All right, here it is 

[William lets km go mi Frederick takes the paper 
out of ins pocket Just as William thinks he is going 
to gm it b$m > he puts it m bis mouth 
William [Seizing km by the throat.] Take it out of your 
mouth 



HOME AND BEAUTY 


ACT H 


2S6 

[Frederick takes it out and throws it on tbs floor 
Frederick I don’t know if you call yourself a gentleman 

[William takes up tbs paper and unfolds it 
William You dirty dog 
Victoria What’s the matter* 

{He walks over and hands it to her 

William Look. 

Victoria. Why, it’s got a cross on it 

William [Indignantly ] They both had crosses on them 

Victoria I don’t understand 

William Don’t you? He was making quite sure that I 
shouldn’t draw a blank. 

[Victoria looks at him in astonishment There is a 
moment's pause 

Frederick [Magnanimously ] I did it for your sake, 
Victoria I knew that your heart was set on Bill, only 
you couldn’t bear to hurt my feelings, so I thought I’d 
make it easier for you 

Victoria That was just like you, Freddie You have a 
charming nature 

William [Acidly ] It almost brings tears to my eyes 
Frederick I’m made that way I can’t help sacrificing 
myself for others 

[Taylor comes in 

Taylor May I speak to you for a minute, madam* 

Victoria Not now Fmbusy 
Taylor I’m afraid it’s very urgent, madam 
Victoria Oh, very well. I’ll come Don’t say anything 
important till I come back 

[Taylor holds the door open for her, and she goes out ; 
Frederick How did you guess? 



ACT II HOME AND BEAUTY 287 

William You were so devilish calm about it 
Frederick That was the calm of despair 

[William is sitting on the sofa He happens to put ks 
hand behind him and feels something hard \\hth a 
pulled expression he puts down bis band between the 
seat and the bask of the sofa and draws out first one 
boot and then another 
William My boots! 

Frederick I knew Fd put them somewhere 
William You didn’t put them anywhere You hid them, 
you dirty dog 

Frederick It’s a he Why the dickens should I hide your 
rotten old boots^ 

William You were afraid Fd do a bunk 
Frederick You needn’t get ratty about it I only ascribed 
to you the disinterested motives that I — that I have 
myself I may be wrong, but, after all, it’s a noble error 
William One might almost think you didn’t want Victoria 
[Frederick looks at him for a moment thoughtfully , then 
he makes up his mind to make a dean breast of it 
Frederick Bill, old chap, you know I’m not the sort of 
man to say a word against my wife 
William Nor am I the sort of man to listen to a word 
against mine* 

Frederick* But, hang it all, if a fellow can’t discuss his wife 
dispassionately with her first husband, who can he 
discuss her witlp 

William I can’t imagine unless it’s with her second 
Frederick Tell me what you really think of Victoria. 
William She’s the sweetest little woman in the world. 
Frederick* No man could want a better wife. 

William She’s pretty. 

Frederick Charming. 



288 


HOME AND BEAUTY 


ACT n 


William Delightful 

Frederick I confess that sometimes I’ve thought it hard 
that when I wanted a thing it was selfishness, and when 
she wanted it, it was onlv her due 
William I don’t mind admitting that sometimes I used to 
wonder why it was only natural of me to sacrifice my 
inclinations, but m her the proof of a beautiful nature 
Frederick It has tried me now and then that in every 
difference of opinion I should always be wrong and she 
should always be right 

William Sometimes I couldn’t quite understand why my 
engagements were made to be broken, while nothing m 
the w orld must interfere with hers 
Frederick I hai e asked myself occasionally why my time 
was of no importance while hers was so precious 
^ illiam I did sometimes wish I could call my soul my own 
Frederick The fact is, I’m not worthy of her. Bill As you 
so justly say, no man could want a better wife • . 
William [Interrupting] No, you said that 
Frederick But I’m fed up If you’d been dead I’d have 
seen it through like a gentleman, but you’ve turned up 
like a bad shilling Now you take up the white man’s 
burden 

William I’ll see you damned first 
Frederick She must have one husband. 

William Look here, there’s only one thing to do. She 
must choose between us 

Frederick That’s not giving me a chance 

William I don’t know what you mean by that I think it’s 
extraordinarily magnanimous on my part 

Frederick* Magnanimous be hanged I’ve got a charming 
nature and I’m extremely handsome Victoria will 
naturally choose me 



ACT n HOME AND BEAUTY 289 

William Heaven knows Fm not vain, but Fve always been 
given to understand that Fm an almost perfect specimen 
of manly beauty My conversation is not only amusing, 
but instructive 

Frederick Fd rather toss for it. 

William Fm not going to risk anything like that. Fve had 
enough of your hanky-panky 

Frederick I thought I was dealing with a gentleman.. 

William Here she comes 

[Victoria comes m She is tn a temper 

Victoria All the servants have given notice now. 

Frederick Thev haven't! 

Victoria Fve done everything in the world for them Fve 
given them double v ages Fve fed them on the fat of the 
land Fve given them my own butter and my own sugar 
to eat 

Frederick Only because they were bad for your figure, 
Victoria 

Victoria They didn't know that Fve given them all the 
evenings out that I really didn't want them I've let them 
bring the whole British Army to tea here And now they 
give me notice 

William It's a bit thick, I must say 

Victoria I argued with them, I appealed to them, 1 
practically went down on my knees to them They 
wouldn't listen. They're going to walk out of the house 
this afternoon 

William Oh, well, Freddie and I will do the housework 
until you get some more 

Victoria Do you know that it's harder to get a parlour- 
maid than a peerage? Why, every day at Paddington 
Registry Office you'll see a queue of old bachelors taking 
out licences to marry their cooks. It's the only way to 
keep them. 



ACT IX 


290 HOME AND BEAUTT 

William Well, Victoria, we’ve decided that there’s only 
one thing to be done You must choose between us 

Victoria How can P I adore you both Besides, there’s so 
little to choose between you 

William Oh, I don’t know about that Freddie has a 
charming nature and he’s extremely handsome* 

Frederick I wish you wouldn’t say that. Bill. Heaven 
knows you’re not vain, but I must tell you to your face 
that you’re an almost perfect specimen of manly beauty, 
and your conversation is not only amusing but in- 
structive. 

Victoria I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings 

Frederick Before you decide, I feel it only fair to make a 
confession to you I could not bear it if our future life 
were founded on a lie Victoria, in my department there 
is a stenographer She is of the feminine gender She has 
blue eyes and little yellow curls at the nape of her neck. 
The rest I leave to your imagination. 

Victoria How abominable And I always thought you 
had such a nice mind 

Frederick I am unworthy of you I know it only too, too 
well You can never forgive me 

William Dirty dog 

Victoria. That certainly simplifies matters I don’t quite see 
myself as the third lady in the back row of a harem. 

William You would run no risk of being that in Canad a. 
Women are scarce in Manitoba. 

Victoria What are you talking about? 

William. I have come to the conclusion that England offers 
me no future now the war is over I shall resign my 
commission. The empire needs workers, and I am ready 
to take my part in reconstruction. Make me the happiest 
of men, Victoria, and we’ll emigrate together. 



ACTU HOME AND BEAUTT 

Victoria To Canada? 

Frederick Where the sables come from. 

Victoria Not the best ones 

William I shall buy a farm. I think ir would be a very 
good plan if you employed your leisure in learning how 
to cook the simple fire on which we shall live. I believe 
you can washP 

Victoria [With aspen tj] Lace 

William But I think you should also learn how to milk 
cows 

Victoria I don’t like cows 

William I see the idea appeals to you It will be a wonder- 
ful life, Victoria You’!! light the fire and scrub the 
floors, and you’ll cook the dinner and wash the clothes 
You’ll vote 

Victoria And what shall I do in my spare moments? 

William We will cultivate your mind by reading the 
Encjdopadta Brttanmca together Take a good look at us, 
Victoria, and say which of us it’s to be 

Victoria To tell you the truth, I don’t see why it should be 
either 

Frederick Hang it all, it must be one or the other 

Victoria I think no one can deny that since the day I 
married you I’ve sacrificed myself in every mortal way 
I’ve worked myself to the bone to make you comfortable 
Very few men have ever had such a wife as I’ve been to 
bothofyoul But one must think of oneself sometimes 

William How true. 

Victoria The war is over now, and I think I’ve done my 
bit I’ve married two DSO’s Now I want to marry a 
Rolls-Royce. 

Frederick. [Astonished] But I thought you adored us 

Victoria. Well, you see, I adore you both. It’s six of one 



t$t HOME AND BEAUTY ACT II 

and half a dozen of the other, and the result is . • 

William A wash-out 

Frederick Hang it all, I think it’s a bit thick. Do you 
mean to say that you’ve fixed up to marry somebody else 
behind our back? 

Victoria You know I wouldn’t do a thing like that, 
Freddie 

Frederick Well, I don’t tumble, 

Victoria My dear Freddie, have you ever studied the 
domestic habits of the unicorn 5 

Frederick I am afraid my education was very much 
neglected 

Victoria The unicorn is a shy and somewhat timid animal, 
and it is impossible to catch him with the snares of the 
hunter But he is strangely impressionable to the charms 
of the fair sex When he hears the frou-frou of a silk 
petticoat he forgets his native caution In short, a pretty 
woman can lead him by the nose 

[Taylor comes in 

Taylor Mr Leicester Paton is downstairs in his car, 
madam* 

Victoria, Is it the Rolls-Royce? 

Taylor I think it is, madam 

Victoria {With a smile of triumph ] Say I’ll come down at 
once 

Taylor Very good, madam. {Exit 

Victoria The umcom’s going to take me out to luncheon. 

[She makes a Jong nose at them and goes out 


END OF THE SECOND ACT 



THE THIRD ACT 


The hfchen At one end is a range, with a gas-stm e, at the other erd 
a dresser on which are plates and dishes At the back a door 
leads out to the area and near it is a window, with iron bars , 
through which can be seen the area steps and persons ascending 
and descending them In the middle of the room is a kitchen table , 
and here and there kitchen chairs There is linoleum on the floor 
The place is clean , sanitary , and cheerful 

William is sitting on one of the chairs with his feet on another , 
reading a thin , paper-bound novel of the sort that is published 
at threepence and sold by the newsagent round the corner 
Frederick comes in with a scuttle full of coals 

Frederick [Putting down the scuttle ] I say, these coals weigh 
about a ton. You might carry them upstairs 

William [< Cheerfully ] I might, but I’m not going to* 

Frederick I wouldn’t ask you, only since I was wounded 
in the arm serving my country I haven’t the strength 
I had once 

William [Suspiciously.] Which arm were you wounded in? 

Frederick* [Promptly ] Both arms 

William Carry the coals on your head then I believe 
that’s the best way really. And they say it improves the 
figure 

Frederick You heartless deviL 

William I’d do it like a shot, did man, only the doctor said 
at was very bad for my heart to carry heavy weights. 

Frederick What’s the matter with your heart? You said 
you were wounded in the head. 

a&3 



ACT III 


294 HOME AND BEAUTY 

William Besides, it isn’t my work Fm doing the cooking 
You really can’t expect me to do housework as well 

Frederick Are you doing the cooking 5 It looks to me as 
though you were just sitting about doing nothing I 
don’t see why I should have to sweat my life out 
William You see, you have no organization House- 
work’s perfectly simple, only you must have organization 
I have organization That’s my secret 
Frederick I was a mug to say I’d do the housework I 
might have known you’d freeze on to a soft job if there 
was one, 

William I naturally undertook to do what I could do best 
That is one of the secrets of organization Cooking is an 
art Any fool can do housework 
Frederick I’ll give you a thick ear in a minute You just 
try and get a shine on a pair of boots and see if it’s easy 
William I don’t believe you know how to shine a pair of 
boots Did you spit on them? 

Frederick No, only on the silver 

William You just look ruppy and get the table laid while I 
finish my book. 

Frederick [Gloomily ] Is it luncheon or dinner 5 
William I don’t know yet, but we’re going to have it 
down here because it’s easier for dishing up Organiza- 
tion again 

Frederick What does Victoria say to that 5 
William I haven’t told her yet 
Frederick She’s in an awful temper this morning 
William Why? 

Frederick Because the water in the bathroom wasn’t hot 
William* Wasn’t it? 

Frederick You know very well it wasn’t* 

William: I think cold baths are much better for people. 



ACT in HOME AND BEAUTT 

There’d be a damned sight less illness about if cold baths 
were compulsory 

Frederick Tell that to the horse-marmes You were too 
lazy to get up in time That’s all there is to it 

William I wish you’d get on with your work instead of 
interrupting me all the time 

Frederick You don’t look as if you were so busy as all 
that 

William I want to find out if the nursery governess 
married the duke after all. You should read this after 
Fve finished it 

Frederick I don’t have time for reading When I take on a 
job I like to do it properly 

William I wish you wouldn’t mumble 

Frederick What is there for lunch? [He goes over to the 
stove and takes a cover off a saucepan ] What’s this mess? 

William Those are potatoes You might give one of them 
a jab^tflth a fork to see how they’re getting on 

Frederick It seems rather unfriendly, doesn’t it? 

William. Oh no, they’re used to it 

[Frederick takes a fork and trees to transfix a potato 

Frederick Damn it all, they won’t stop still They’re 
wriggling all over the place Wriggle, wriggle, little 
tater How I wonder who’s your mater Poetry! Come 
here, you little devil. Woa there, 

William I say, don’t make such a row This is awfully 
exciting He’s plunged both his hands into her hair. 

Frederick. Dirty tack, I call it 

William Why? She’d washed it 

Frederick. [Bringing out a potato ] Damn it all, they’re not 
skinned. 

William I suppose you mean peeled, 



ACT XII 


296 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Frederick If there's anything I dislike it's potatoes m 
their skins 

William It's simplv waste to peel potatoes I never peel 
potatoes 

Frederick Is that organization^ 

Willi am Well, if you ask me, that's just what it is, 

Frederick Ever since I’ve been at the War Office I've 
heard felloes talk of organization, but I never could find 
anyone to tell me just what it was It's beginning to 
dawn on me now 

\\ Ilham [Still reading ] Well, what is xt? 

Frederick I’m not going to tell you unless you listen 

William [Looking up] He's just glued his bps to hers 
WelP 

Frederick Organization means getting someone else to do 
your job for you if you can, and if you can't, letting it np 

William I suppose you think you're funny 

Frederick [Putting the potato hack tn the saucepan] The 
steak smells as though it was almost done 

William Done^ It's only been on about a quarter of an 
hour 

Frederick But in a grill-room they do you steak in ten 
minutes 

William I don't care about that* You cook meat a quarter 
of an hour for every pound I should have thought any 
fool knew that, 

Frederick: What's that got to do with it* 

William* I bought three pounds of steak, so I'm going to 
cook it for three-quarters of an hour 

Frederick Well, it looks to me as if it wanted eating now 

William That's only its cunning It won't be ready for 
ages yet, I wish you'd let me get on with my story. 



ACT HI 


HOME AND BEAUTY 


*97 

Frederick, \Pu%%led ] But look here, if there were three 
steaks of a pound each you’d cook them a quarter of an 
hour each 

William Exactly That’s what I say That comes to three- 
quarters of an hour 

Frederick But, hang it all, it’s the same quarter of an hour 

William You make me tired You might just as well say 
that because three men can walk four miles an hour each 
man can walk twelve miles an hour 

Frederick But that’s just what I do say 

William Well, it’s damned idiotic, that’s all 

Frederick No, but I mean exactly the opposite That’s 
wha tjou say You’ve got me confused now Well have 
to start all over again 

William I shall never finish this story if you go on like this 

Frederick It’s a very important matter Let’s get a pencil 
and a piece of paper and work it out We must get it 
right 

William For goodness’ sake go and clean knives or some- 
thing, and don’t bother your head about things that are 
no concern of yours 

Frederick Who’s going to eat the steak? 

William You won’t if you’re not careful 

Frederick If I’m careful I don’t think I will. 

William [Begmmg to gr&p pemsb ] Cooking has its rules 
like everything else, and it’s just as little use arguing 
about them as arguing about women, 

Frederick Now look here, if you cut that steak into three, 
would there be three pounds of steak or not? 

William Certainly not There’d be three steaks of one 
pound, and that’s quite another matter 

Frederick But it would be the same steak. 



ACT III 


298 HOME AND BEAUTY 

William [Emphatically ] It wouldn’t be the same steak It 
would be an entirely different steak 
Frederics Do you mean to tell me that if you had a steak 
of a hundred pounds you’d cook it for twenty-five hours^ 
William Yes, and if I had a steak a thousand pounds Pd 
cook it for ten da\s 

Frederick It seems an awful waste of gas 
illiam I don’t care about that, it’s logic 

[Enter Victoria 

Victoria I really think it’s too bad of you Pve been 
ringing the bell for the last quarter of an hour There 
are two men in the house, and you neither of you pay 
the least attention 

William We were having an argument 
Frederick Let me put it before you, Victoria 
William It has nothing to do with Victoria I’m the cook, 
and I won’t have anyone come interfering in my kitchen 
Frederick You must do someth mg, Victoria The steak 
will be absolutely uneatable 
Victoria I don’t care I never eat steak 
William It’s all you’ll get for luncheon 
Victoria I shan’t be here for luncheon. 

William Why not? 

Victoria Because — because Mr Leicester Paton has made 
me an offer of marriage and I have accepted it 
Frederick. But you’ve got two husbands already, Victoria. 
Victoria. I imagine you’ll both be gentlemen enough to 
put no obstacle in the way of my getting my freedom 

[A nng ts heard 

Frederick Huiloa, who’s that? 

Victoria That is my solicitor. 

Frederick. Your what? 



ACT in HOME AND BEAUTY 299 

Victoria I told him to come at one Go and open the 
door, Freddie, will you 5 

Frederick What the dijkens does he want 5 
Victoria He’s going to fix up my divorce 

Frederick You’re not letting the grass grow under your 
feet 

[He goes out 

William This is a desperate step you’re taking, Victoria. 

Victoria I had to do something You must see that it’s 
quite impossible for a woman to live without servants. 
I had no one to do me up this morning 
William How on earth did you manage 5 
Victoria I had to put on something that didn’t need 
doing up 

William That seems an adequate way out of the difficulty 
Victoria It so happens that the one frock that didn’t need 
doing up was the one frock I didn’t want to wear 
William You look ravishing in it all the same 
Victoria [Rather stiffly ] I’d sooner you didn’t pay me 
compliments. Bill 
William Why not 5 

Victoria Well, now that I’m engaged to Leicester Baton 
I don’t think it’s very good form 
William Have you quite made up your mind to divorce me 5 
Victoria Quite 

William In that case, I can almost look upon you as 
another man’s wife. 

Victoria What do you mean by that? 

William Only that I can make love to you without feeling 
a thundering ass 

Victoria [Stmlmg ] I’m not going to let you make love 
to me 



act nr 


500 HOME AND BEAUTY 

William You can’t prevent me from telling you that vou’re 
the loveliest thing that e\ er turned a poor man’s head* 

Victoria I can dose my ears 

William [Taking her bands ] Impossible, for I shall hold 
your hands 

Victoria I shall scream 

William* You can’t, because I shall kiss your bps 

[He does so 

Victoria Oh, Bill, what a pity it is you were ever my 
husband Fm sure you’d make a charming lover 

William I have often thought that is the better part 

Victoria Take care They’re just coming It would never 
do for my solicitor to find me in my husband’s arms 

William It would be outrageous 

[Frederick ushers in the visitor Mr A B Raham 
is a solicitor There is nothing more to he said about 
him 

Victoria How do you do, Mr Raham? Do you know my 
husbands 5 

Mr Raham I’m pleased to meet you, gentlemen I dare 
say it would facilitate matters if I am told which of }ou 
is which, and which is the other 

Victoria This is Major Cardew, my first husband, and 
this is my second husband. Major Lowndes 

Mr Raham Ah, that makes it quite clear Both Majors. 
Interesting coincidence 

William I suppose that Mrs Lowndes has put you in 
possession of the facts, Mr. Raham 5 

Mr Raham* I think so We had a long talk at my office 
yesterday. 

Frederick. You cm quite understand that it’s a position 
of some delicacy for Mrs Cardew. 



ACT in HOME AND BEAUTY 30I 

Mr Raham [Pulled ] Mrs Cardew 5 Where does Mrs 
Cardew come in 5 
Frederick This is Mrs Cardew. 

Mr Raham Oh, I see what you mean That, in short, is 
the difficulty Is this lady Mrs Cardew or Mrs Lowndes 5 
Well, the fact is, she has decided to be neither 
Victoria I’ve just broken it to them. 

William You find us still staggering from the shock. 
Frederick Staggering. 

Mr. Raham She has determined to divorce you both I 
have told her that this is not necessary, since she is 
obviously the wife of only one of you 
Victoria [Argumentatively ] In that case, what am I to the 
other 5 

Mr Raham Well, Mrs Cardew, or shall we say Lowndes 5 
I hardly like to mention it to a lady, but if you’ll excuse 
me saymg so, you’re his concubine 
William I rather like that, it sounds so damned Oriental 
Victoria [Indignantly ] I never heard of such a thing 
William Oh, Fatima, your face is like the full moon, and 
your eyes are like the eyes of a young gazelle Come, 
dance to me to the sound of the lute 
Victoria Well, that settles it I shall divorce them both 
just to prove to everyone that they’re both my husbands 

Frederick I think it’s just as well to take no risks 
Mr Raham Do I understand that you two gentlemen are 
agreeable 5 

William Speaking for myself, I am prepared to sacrifice 
my feelings, deep as they are, to the happiness of 
Victoria 

Mr. Raham Very nicely and feelingly put 
Victoria He always was a gentleman. 

Mr. Raham. [T& Frederick.] Now you. Major Cardew* 


L 



30* HOME AND BEAUTY ACT III 

Frederick My came is Lowndes 

Mr Raham My mistake Of course you’re Major Lowndes 
I made a mental note of it when we were introduced 
Cardew — camel-face Lowndes — litigation Pelmamsm, 
you know 

Frederick I see It doesn’t seem very effective, though 

Mr Raham Anyhow, that is neither here nor there Will 
you give this lady the freedom she desires^ 

Frederick I will [Wttb a pulled look] When did I last 
say those words^ [Remembering ] Of course, the marriage 
service 

Mr Raham Well, so far so good I am under the im- 
pression that when it comes to the point we shall not 
need to take both you gentlemen into court, but I quite 
agree with Mrs Lowndes-Cardew that it will save time 
and trouble if we get up the case against both of you m 
the same way Since you will neither of you defend 
the case, there is no need for you to go to the expense 
of legal advice, so I propose to go into the whole matter 
with you now 

Victoria You can feel quite easy about taking Mr Raham’s 
advice He has arranged more divorce cases than any 
man in England 

Mr* Raham, I venture to say that there are few of the best 
families m this country that haven’t made use of my 
services m one way or another Outraged husband, 
deceived wife, co-respondent or intervener; it’s hardly 
likely that anyone who is anyone won’t figure sooner 
or later in one or other of these capacities. And although 
it’s I as says it, if he’s wise he comes to me My maxim 
has always been. Do it quickly; don’t let’s have a lot 
of fess and bother And, just to show you how my 
system works, there are kdi e s for whom I’ve got a 
divorce from three or four successive husbands# and 


I 



ACTIIX HOME AND BEiOTT j©$ 

never a word of scandal has sullied the purity of then 

fair fiatni* t 

William You must be a very busy man. 

Mr. Raham I assure you. Major, I’m one of the busiest 
men m London 

William Fortunately, some marriages are happy. 

Mr. Raham Don’t you believe it. Major Cardew There 
are no happy marriages Rut there are some that are 
tolerable. 

Victoria You are a pessimist, Mr Raham. I have made 
both my husbands ideally happy 

Mr Raham But I will come to the point Though, perhaps, 
it is hardly necessary, I will point out to you gentlemen 
what the law of the country needs in order to free a 
couple who, for reasons vhich merely concern them- 
selves, have decided that they prefer to part company 
If a husband wishes to divorce his wife he need prove 
nothing but adultery, but the English law recognizes 
the natural polygamy of man, and when a wife desires 
to divorce her husband she must prove besides cruelty 
or desertion. Let us take these first Do you wish the 
cause of offence to be cruelty or desertion^ 

Victoria. Personally, I should prefer desertion. 

William Certainly I should very much dislike to be cruel 
to you, Victoria. 

Frederick And you know I could never hurt a fly 

Mr Raham Then we will settle on desertion. I think my- 
self it is the more gentlemanly way, and besides, it is 
more easily proved The procedure is excessively simple 
Mrs Cardew-Lowndes wiU write you a letter, which I 
shall dictate, asking you to return to her — the usual 
phrase is “to make a home for her” — and you will 
refuse I propose that you should both give me your 
refusals now. 



304 HOME A NT D BEAUTY ACT HI 

William [Surprised ] Before we’ve had the letter^ 

Mr Raham Precisely The letter which she will write, and 
which is read out in court, is so touching that on one 
occasion the husband, about to be divorced, was so 
moved that he immediately returned to his wife She 
was very angry indeed, and so now I invariably get the 
refusal first 

William It’s so difficult to write an answer to a letter that 
hasn’t been written 

Mr Raham To meet that difficulty I have also prepared 
the replies Have you a fountain-pen? 

William Yes 

Mr Raham [Taking a piece of paper from his pocket-book and 
two sheets of paper ] If you will kindly write to my dic- 
tation, we will settle the matter at once Here is a sheet 
of paper 

William [Taking it ] The address is — Hotel Majestic 

Mr* Raham You will see the point later Here is a piece 
for you. Major* 

[He gives it to Frederick 

Frederick Do we both write the same letter? 

Mr Raham Certainly not I have two letters that I 
generally make use of, and I propose that you should 
each of you write one of them The note of one is sorrow 
rather than anger The other is somewhat vituperative 
You can decide among yourselves which of you had 
better write which. 

Victoria. They both habitually swore at me, but I think 
Bill’s language was more varied. 

Mr. Raham That settles it. Are you ready. Major Lowndes? 

Frederick [Getting to read? write ] Fire away 

Mr. Raham: [Dictating ] My dear Victoria, I have given your 
letter anxious consideration. If I thought there was any 
hope of our m a king a greater success of married life m 



ACT III HOME AND BEAUTY $0J 

the future than we have m the past 1 should be the first 
to suggest that we should make one more attempt 

William Very touching 

Me Raham [Continuing ] But I have regretfully come to the 
conclusion that to return to you would only be to 
cause a recurrence of the unhappy life from which I 
know that you have suffered no less than I I am bound 
therefore definitely to refuse your request, I do not 
propose under any circumstances to return to you 
Yours sincerely — Now sign your full name, 

Victoria A very nice letter, Freddie I shall always think 
pleasantly of you 

Frederick I have my points 

Mr. Raham Now, Major Cardew, are you ready 5 

William Quite. 

Mr Raham My dear Victoria, I am in receipt of your letter 
asking me to return to you Our life together has been 
a hell upon earth, and I have long realized that our 
marriage was a tragic mistake You have sickened me 
with scenes and tortured me with jealousy If you have 
tried to make me happy you have succeeded singularly 
ill I trust that I shall never see you again, and nothing 
in the world will induce me ever to resume a life which 
I cm only describe as a miserable degradation. 

William Thick, eh 5 

Mr Raham Now the crowning touch Mark the irony ot 
the polite ending* I beg to remain yours most sincerely 
— Now sign your name 

William Fve signed it 

Mr Raham Then that is settled Now we only have to 
go into court, apply for a decree for restitution of 
conjugal nghts, and six months later bring an action 
for divorce 

Victoria Six months later! But when shall I be free, then? 



306 home AND BEAUT! ACT III 

Mr. Raham la about a year 

Victoria Ob, but that won’t do at alL I must have my 
freedom by — well, before the racing season ends, at 
all events 

Mr Raham As soon as that* 

Victoria The Derby, if possible Certainly by the Two 
Thousand Guineas 

Mr Raham [Shrugging his shoulders ] In that case the only 
thing is cruelty 

Victoria It can’t be helped They’ll have to be cruel. 

Frederick I don’t like the idea, Victoria 

Victoria Try and be a little unselfish for once, darling 

William I could never strike a woman 

Victoria If I don’t mind I don’t see why you should 

Mr Raham Cruelty has its advantages If it’s properly 
witnessed it has a convincing air which desertion never 
has, 

Victoria My mother will swear to anything 

Mr Raham Servants are better The judges are often 
unduly suspicious of the mother-in-law’s testimony Of 
course, one has to be careful Once, I remember, on 
my instructions the guilty husband hit the lady I was 
acting for in the jaw, which unfortunately knocked out 
her false teeth The gentleman she had arranged to 
marry happened to be present and he was so startled 
that he took the night tram for the Continent and has 
never been heard of since. 

William. I’m happy to say that Victoria’s teeth are all her 

own. 

Ife. Raham On another occasion I recommended a gentle- 
man to take a stick and give his wife a few strokes with 
it I don’t know if he got excited or what, but he gave 
her a regular hiding. 



30 ? 


ACT III HOME AND BE AUTT 

Victoria How awful 1 
Mr Raham It was indeed, for she threw her arms round 
his neck, and, saying she adored him, refused to have 
anything more to do with the divorce She was going 
to marry a colonel in the army, and he was most offensive 
to me about it I had to tell him that if he didn’t leave 
my office I would send for the police 
Victoria You’re dreadfully discouraging 
Mr Raham Oh, I merely tell you that to show you what 
may happen But I have devised my own system and 
have never known it fail I always arrange for three 
definite acts of cruelty First at the dinner-table Now, 
please listen to me carefully, gentlemen, and follow my 
instructions to the letter When you ha\e tasted your 
soup you throw down the spoon with a clatter and say 
Good Lord, this soup is uneatable Can’t you get a 
decent cook^ You, madam, will answer I do my best, 
darling Upon which you, crying with a loud voice 
Take that, you damned fool, throw the plate straight 
at her With a little ingenuity the lady can dodge the 
plate, and the only damage is done to the table-cloth 
Victoria I like that 

Mr Raham The second act is a little more violent I 
suppose you have a revolver 
William At all events, I can get one 
Mr. Raham* Having carefully removed the cartridges, you 
ring the bell for the servant, and just as she opens the 
door, you point it at the lady and say You lying devil. 
I’ll kill you Then you, madam, give a loud shriek, and 
cry to the maid. Oh, save me, save me. 

Victoria I shall love doing that So dramatic. 

Mr Raham I think it’s effective When the servant tells 
her story in court it is very seldom that an audible thrill 
does not pass over the audience They describe it in the 
papers as Sensation. 



HOME AND BEAUTY 


ACT m 


308 


Victori \ [Practising ] Oh, save me Save me 
Mr. Raham Now we come to physical as opposed to moral 
cruelty It’s as well to have two witnesses to this The 
gentleman takes the lady by the throat, at the same time 
hissing malevolently Pll throttle you if I swing for it, 
by God IPs very important to leave a bruise so that 
the doctor, who should be sent for immediately, can 
swear to it 

Victoria I don’t like that part so much 
Mr Raham Believe me, it’s no more unpleasant than 
having a tooth stopped Now if one of you gentlemen 
would just go up to the ladv we’ll practise that I set 
great store on this particular point, and it’s important 
that there should be no mistake Major Cardew, would 
you mind obliging^ 

William Not at all 
Victoria Be careful, Bill 

William Do I take her with both hands or only one^ 

Mr Raham Only one 

[William seizes Victoria by the throat 

Mr Raham That’s right If he doesn’t press hard enough 
kick him on the shins 

William If you do, Victoria, I swear I’ll kick you back. 
Mr Raham. That’s the spirit You can’t make a bruise 
without a little violence Now hiss 
Victoria Pm choking 
Mr Raham Hiss, hiss. 

William I’ll throttle you if I swing for it, by God 
Mr Raham Splendid! A real artist You’re as good as 
divorced already 

Victoria. He did say it well, didn’t he? It really made my 
Frederick. Do you want me to do it too? 



ACT m 


HOME AND BEAUTY 


309 

Mr Raham Now you’ve seen the idea I think it’ll do if 
you just practise it once or twice with Major Cardew 

Frederick Oh, ail right 

Mr Raham Now we come to a point trivial enough in 
itself, but essential in order to satisfy the requirements 
of our English law Adultery 

William That I think you can safely leave to us 

Mr. Raham By no means I think that would be most 
dangerous 

William Hang it all, man, human nature can surely be 
trusted there 

Mr Raham We are not dealing with human nature, we 
are dealing with law 

William Law be blowed With the price of a supper m 
my pocket and an engaging manner I am prepared to 
supply you with all the evidence you want 

Mr Raham I am shocked and horrified by your suggestion 
Do you expect a man in my position to connive at 
immorality 

William Immorality Well, there must be — shall we say 
a joupfon of it — under the painful circumstances 

Mr Raham Not at all I always arrange this part of the 
proceedings with the most scrupulous regard to pro- 
priety And before we go any further I should like to 
inform you that unless you are prepared to put out of 
your mind anything that is suggestive of indecent 
behaviour I shall decline to have anything more to do 
with the case 

Victoria I think you must have a nasty mind, BilL 

William But, my dear Victoria, I only wanted to make 
things easy for you. I apologize I put myself in your 
hands, Mr Raham. 

Mr. Raham Then please listen to me I will engage a suite 



1 10 HOME AND BEAUTI ACT III 

of zooms for you at the Hotel Majestic You will 
remember it was from there you wrote the letter in 
which you declined to return to your wife The judge 
never fails to remark on the coincidence On a date to 
be settled hereafter vou will come to my office, where 
you will meet a lad^ 

William Do }ou mean to sat you provide her too^ 

Mil Raham Certain! v 

Frederick What’s she like 15 

Mr Raham A most respectable person I have employed 
her in these cases for many tears 

William It sounds as though she made a business of it 

Mr Rah am She does 

Frederick What! 

Mil Raham Yes, she had the idea — a most mgemous one 
to my mind — that in these days of specialized pro- 
fessions there was great need for someone to undertake 
the duties of intervener That is the name by which 
the lady is known adultery with whom is the motive 
for divorce She has been employed by the best legal 
firms in London, and she has figured in practically all 
the fashionable divorces of the last fifteen years 

William You amaze me 

Mr. Raham I have felt it my duty to give her all the work 
I can on account of a paralyzed father, whom she 
supports entirely by her exertions 

Victoria Not an unpleasant existence, I should imagine 

Mr* Raham If you knew her you would realize that no 
thought of that has ever entered her mind* A most 
unselfish, noble-minded woman 

William Does she make money by it? 

Mr. Raham Sufficient for her simple needs She only 
charges twenty guineas for her services. 



ACT in HOME AND BEAUTY AH 

William Fm sure I could get it done for less 

Mr Raham Not by a woman of any refinement 

William Well, well, with most of us it’s only once in a 
lifetime 

Mr Raham I will proceed You will fetch this lady at my 
office, and you will dnve with her to the Hotel Majestic, 
where you will register as Major and Mrs Cardew You 
will be shown into the suite of rooms which I shall 
engage for you, and supper will be served in the sitting- 
room You will partake of this, and you will drink 
champagne 

William I should like to choose the brand myself 

Mr Raham [Magnanimously ] I have no objection to that 

William Thanks 

Mr Raham Then you will pla} cards Miss Montmorency 
is a wonderful card-pla\ er She not only has an un- 
paralleled knowledge of all games for two, but she can 
do a gieat number of tricks In this way you will find 
the night pass without tediousness, and in the morning 
you will ring for breakfast 

Frederick Fm not sure if I should have much appetite 
for it. 

Mr Raham I never mind my clients having brandy and 
soda instead It looks well in the waiter’s evidence And 
after having paid your bill, you will take Miss Mont- 
morency in a taxi-cab and deposit her at my office 

William It sounds a devil of a beano 

Frederick I should like to see her first. 

Mr. Raham* That is perfectly easy I know that ladies in 
these cases often like to see the intervener themselves 
Ladies are sometimes very suspicious, and even though 
they’re getting rid of their husbands, they don’t want 
them to — well, run any nsks, and so I took the liberty 
of bringing Miss Montmorency with me She is waiting 



3 12 HOME AND BEAUTY ACT IH 

m the taxi at the door, and if you like I will go and 
fetch her 

Frederick Ai Til go along and bring her down* 
Victoria 1$ she the sort of person I should like to meet, 
Mr Raham? 

Mr Raham Oh, a perfect lady She comes from one of 
the best families in Shropshire 
Victoria Do fetch her, Freddie Now I come to think of 
it, I should like to see her Men are so weak, and I 
shall be easier m my mind if I can be sure that these 
poor boys won’t be led astray 

[Frederick goes out 

William Do you mean to say that with this evidence you 
will be able to get a divorce^ 

Mr Raham Not a doubt of it Fve got hundreds 
William I am only a soldier, and I dare say you will not 
be surprised if I am mentally deficient 
Mr Raham Not at all Not at all 

William Why on earth does such a state of things exist ^ 
Mr Raham Ah, that is a question which at one time I 
often asked myself I confess it seemed to me that when 
two married persons agreed to separate it was nobody’s 
business but their own I think if they announced their 
determination before a justice of the peace, and were 
given six months to think the matter over, so that they 
might be certain they knew their minds, the marriage 
might then be dissolved without further trouble Many 
lies would never be told, much ditty linen would never 
be washed in public, and the sanctity of the marriage 
tie would be strengthened rather than lessened if the 
world were spared the spectacle of the sordid aspect 
the state which is called blessed too often wears There 
would be a notable saving of time, money and decency* 
But at last I hit upon the explanation. 



ACT in HOME AND BEAUTY 313 

William What is it, then* 

Mr Raham If the law were always wise and reasonable it 
would be obeyed so easily that to obey the law would 
become an instinct Now, it is not for the good of the 
community that the people should be too law-abiding 
So our ancestors in the wisdom of their hearts devised 
certain laws which were vexatious or absurd, so that 
men should break them and therefore be led insensibly 
to break others 

William But why is it not for the good of the community 
that the people should be too law-abiding* 

Mr Raham My dear sir, how else would the lawyers earn 
their living* 

William I had forgotten I see your point 
Mr Raham I hope I have convinced you 
William Completely 

[At this moment Frederick comes tn He ts pale and 
dishevelled He staggers mto the room like a man 
who has been exposed to a tremendous shock, 
Frederick [Gasping ] Brandy! Brandy! 

William What’s the matter* 

Frederick Brandy! 

[He fills almost half a glass with brandy and tosses it 
off A voice ts heard outside the door 
Miss Montmorency Is this the way* 

Mr Raham, Come straight an. Miss Montmorency 

[She enters She ts a spnster of uncertain age She might 
he fifty-five She looks rather like a hard-boiled egg, 
but there ts tn her gestures a langad grace She speaks 
mth a slight drawl, pronouncing her words with 
refinement , and her manner ts a mixture of affability 
and condescension She might be a gmmess m a my 
good family tn the suburbs. Her respectahhty ts 
portentous . 



act m 


3*4 HOME A Is D BEAUTY 

Miss Montmorency But tins is the kitchen 

[William takes a long look at her y then gets up and 
goes to the brandy His band shakes so violently that 
the neck of the bottle rattles against the glass He 
takes a long drink 

Victoria Pm afraid it's the only room in the house that’s 
hamtable at the moment 

Miss Montmorency To the practised observer the signs 
of domestic xnielicity jump to the eye, as the French say 

Mr Raham Miss Montmorency — Mrs Frederick Lowndes 

Miss Montmorency [Graciously] Pm charmed to make 
your acquaintance The injured wife, I presume? 

Victoria Er — yes 

Miss Montmorency So sad So sad Pm afraid the war is 
responsible for the rupture of many happy marriages. 
Pm booked up for weeks ahead So sad So sad 

Victoria Do sit down, won’t you 

Miss Montmorency Thank you Do you mind if I get 
out my note-book^ I like to get everything perfectly 
clear, and my memory isn’t what it was 

Victoria Of course 

Miss Montmorency And now, which of these gentlemen 
is the erring husband? 

Victoria Well, they both are. 

Miss Montmorency* Oh, really And which are you going 
to marry after you’ve got your divorce. 

Victoria Neither. 

Miss Montmorency: This is a very peculiar case, Mr 
Raham. When I saw these two gentlemen I naturally 
concluded that one of them was the husband Mrs 
Frederick Lowndes was discarding and the other the 
husband she was acquiring The eternal triangle, you 
know. 



ACT m 


HOME AND BEAUTY 


3*5 

William In this case the triangle is four-sided 
Miss Montmorency Oh, how very peculiar 

Mr Raham We see a lot of strange things in our business. 
Miss Montmorency 

Miss Montmorency To whom do you say it* as the 
French say 

Victoria I don't want you to think that Fve been at all 
light or careless, but the fact is, through no fault of 
my own, they're both my husbands 
Miss Montmorency [Taking it as a matter of course ] Oh, 
really How very interesting And which arc you 
divorcing^ 

Victoria I'm divorcing them both 
Miss Montmorency Oh, I see Very sad Very sad 
William We're taking as cheerful a view of it as we can 
Miss Montmorency Ah, yes, that's what I say to my 
clients Courage Courage 
Frederick [With a start ] When? 

Victoria Be quiet, Freddie 

Miss Montmorency I think I ought to tell you at once that 
I shouldn't like to misconduct myself — I use the tech- 
nical expression— with both these gentlemen 
Mr Raham Oh, Miss Montmorency, a woman of your 
experience isn't going to strain at a gnat 
Bliss Montmorency No, but I shouldn't like to swallow 
a camel. 

Mr Raham. We shall be generous. Miss Montmorency. 
Miss Montmorency I have to think of my self-respect. 

One gentleman is business, but two would be debauchery. 
Mr Raham Mrs Lowndes is anxious to put this matter 
through as quickly as possible. 

Miss Montmorency I dare say my friend Mrs. Onslow 
Jervis would oblige if I asked hoc as a personal favour. 



HOME AND BEAUTY 


act m 


316 


Victoria Are you sure she can be trusted^ 

Miss Montmorency Oh, she’s a perfect lady and most 
respectable She’s the widow of a clergyman, and she 
has two sons in the army They’ve done so well in the war 

Mr Raham Unless we can get Miss Montmorency to 
reconsider her decision I’m afraid we shall have to put 
up with Mrs Onslow Jervis 

Miss Montmorency I am adamant, Mr Raham Adamant 

Frederick I’m all for Mrs Onslow Jervis personally 

Miss Montmorency Then you fall to me. Major I 
didn’t catch your name. 

William Cardew 

Miss Montmorency I hope you play cards 

William Sometimes 

Miss Montmorency I’m a great card-player Piquet, 
6cart6, cnbbage, double dummy, baccarat, bezique, I 
don’t imnd what I play It’s such a rehef to find a 
gentleman who’s fond of cards. 

William Otherwise I daresay the night seems rather long. 

Miss Montmorency Oh, not to me, you know I’m such 
a student of human nature But my gentlemen begin 
to grow a little restless when I’ve talked to them for six 
or seven hours 

William I can hardly believe it 

Miss Montmorency One gentleman actually said he wanted 
to go to bed, but, of course, I told him that would 
never do 

Victoria Forgive my asking — you know what men are — 
do they never attempt to take any liberties with you^ 

Miss Montmorency; Oh no. If you’re a lady you can always 
keep a man in his place. And Mr Raham only takes the 
very best sort of divorces. The only unpleasantness Fve 
ever had was with a gentleman seat to me by a firm of 
solicitors in a cathedral aty I took a dislike to him the 



ACT m HOME AND BEAUTY 317 

first moment I saw him, and when he refused to drink 
anything at supper but ginger-beer I was on my guard 
A cold sensualist, I said to myself 

Victoria Oh, I know so well what you mean 

Miss Montmorency He had no sooner finished his second 
bottle of ginger-beer than, without any warning at ail, 
he said I am going to kiss you You could have heard 
a pm drop I pretended to think he was joking, so 1 
said We have met for business rather than pleasure 
And what d’you think he answered^ He said This is 
one of the rare occasions on which one can combine the 
two I didn't lose my presence of mind I expostulated 
with him I told him I was a woman and defenceless, 
and he said That's just it Not a gentleman, of course, 
not in the best sense of the word I appealed to his 
better nature But all in vain I didn't know what to do, 
when suddenly I had an inspiration I rushed to the 
door and called in the detective who was watching us 
He protected me 

Mr Raham It was risky. Miss Montmorency The judge 
might have said there was collusion 

Miss Montmorency Necessity knows no law, Mr Raham, 
as those dreadful Germans say, and I was terribly 
frightened 

William I can assure you. Miss Montmorency, that you 
need have no fear that I shall take advantage of your 
delicate position. 

Miss Montmorency* Of course, you will divest yourself 
of none of yourjmment 

Wi lliam On the contrary, I propose to put on an extra 
suit of clothes. 

Miss Montmorency* Oh, Mr. R aham, please don't forget 
that I only drink Fommery. In the Twickenham divorce 
they sent up Pol Roger, and Pol Roger always gives me 



$l8 HOME AND BEAUTY ACT III 

indigestion. Fortunately the dear Marquis, who suffers 
from dyspepsia, had some pepsin tabloids with him or 
I don’t know what I should have done 

Me Rahim I’ll make a note of it at once 

Miss Montmorency 1906 [To William] I’m sure we 
shall have a delightful night I can see that we have 
much in common 

William It’s too good of you to say so 

Miss Montmorency [To Frederick ] And I know you’ll 
like Mrs Onslow Jervis A perfect lady She has such 
charm of manner So much ease You can see that she 
did a lot of entertaining when her husband was Vicar 
of Clacton They have a very nice class of people at 
Clacton 

Frederics: I shall be charmed to meet her 

Miss Montmorency You will take care not to be at all 
risque, as the French say, in your conversation, won’t 
you? Of course, she’s a woman of the world, but as 
the widow of the Vicar of Clacton she feels it only due 
to herself to be a little particular 

Frederick I promise you I’ll be very careful 

Miss Montmorency I don’t know what Mr Raham would 
say to our sharing a suite We could play bridge She’s 
a very fine bridge-player, and we only play threepence 
a hundred, because in her position she can hardly gamble, 
can she? 

Mr Raham I always like to oblige you. Miss Montmorency, 
but I hardly think that arrangement would do You 
know how fussy the judges are. We might hit upon 
one of them who saw nothing m it 

Miss Montmorency: I know. They’re tiresome, silly 
creatures 

Mr Raham: Why, the other day I came across one who 
wouldn’t believe the worst had happened when a man 



ACT III HOME AND BEAUTY 3*9 

and a woman, not related in any way, mind Ton, vere 
proved to have been alone in a room together for three- 
quarters of an hour 

Miss Montmorency Oh, well, let us take no risks Business 
is business It must be you and me alone then. Major 
Cardew You will let me know in good time when you 
fix the fatal night Fm very much booked up just now 
Mr Raham Of course, we will do everything to suit vour 
convenience. Miss Montmorency And now, Mrs 
Lowndes, since we have settled everything, I think Mss 
Montmorency and I will go 
Victoria I can’t think of anything else 
Miss Montmorency Excuse my taking the liberty , Mrs 
Frederick Lowndes, but after your great trouble is over 
should you be wanting any face massage, ma) I give 
you my card 5 

Victoria Oh, do } ou do face massage 5 

Miss Montmorency Only for ladies who are personal!) 

recommended to me Here is my card 
Victoria [Looking at it ] Esmeralda 
Miss Montmorency Yes, it’s a pretty name, isn’t it 5 I also 
make the Esmeralda cream The Marchioness of 
Twickenham’s face was simply ravaged when she was 
divorcing the Marquis, and, believe me, after a course 
of twelve treatments you wouldn’t have known her 
Victoria Of course, all this sort of thing is a great nervous 
shock* 

Miss Montmorency* Oh, I know And there’s nothing like 
face massage for soothing the nerves* 

Victoria* I’ll certainly keep your card* 

Miss Montmorency Good-bye, then. [Tv Wiixiam ] Fm 
not going to say good-bye to you, but au revolt 
William Believe me, I loci forward to our next meeting 
Mr Raham Good morning, Mr, trades* Good 



$*0 HOME AND BEAUTY ACT III 

morning [Moving towards the door that leads mio the area ] 
Shall we go out th*s way 5 

Miss Montmorency [Just a little taken aback ] The area 
steps 5 Oh, very well It’s so quaint and old-fashioned 
I always think a lady if she is a hd\ can do anything 
[She gives a gracious how and goes out > followed by 
Mr Raham 

William This is a bit of all right that }ouVe let us in for, 
Victoria 

Victoria Well, darling, it’s the only thing IVe ever asked 
you to do for me in all my life, so you n eedn't complain 
William I will bear it like a martyr 
Victoria Now, the only thing left is for me to bid you 
good-bye 

Frederick Already? 

Victoria You must understand that under the circum- 
stances it wouldn't be quite nice for me to stay here 
Besides, without servants, it's beastly uncomfortable 
William Won’t you even stay to luncheon 5 
Victoria I don't think I will, thanks I think I shall get 
a better one at mother's 
Frederick Oh, are you going there 5 

Victoria Where else do you expect a woman to go in a 
rnsis like this 5 

William I should think the steak was about done, Freddie 
Frederick. Oh, I'd give it another hour or two to make 
sure 

Victoria. Of course, I realize that it's a painful moment 
for both of you, but as you say, we shan't make it any 
easier by dragging it out 
William True. 

Victoria Good-bye, BilL I forgive you everything, and 
I hope we shall always be good friends 



ACT III HOME AND BEAUTY 321 

William Good-bye, Victoria I hope this will cot be by 
any means your last marriage, 

Victoria When everything is settled you must come an d 
dine with us I’m sure you’ll find that Leicester has the 
best wines and agars that money can buy 

[She turns to km an indifferent cheek 
William [Kissing it ] Good-bye 

Victoria And now, Freddie, it’s your turn Now that 
there’s nothing more between us you might give me 
back that pin I gave you 
Frederick [Taking it out of bis tie ] Here you are* 

Victoria And there was a agarette-case 
Frederick [Giving it her ] Take it* 

Victoria They say jewellery has gone up tremendously m 
value since the war I shall give Leicester a agarette- 
case as a wedding present 
William You always do, Victoria 

Victoria Men like it Good-bye, Freddie dear I shall 
always have a pleasant recollection of you 

[She turns the other cheek to km 
Frederick Good-bye, Victoria 
William Would you like a taxP 

Victoria No, thanks I think the exerase will do me good 
[She gpes out, and is seen tripping up the area steps 
Frederick A wonderful woman 

William I shall never regret having married her Now 
let’s have lunch 

Frederick I wish I looked forward to it as much as you do 
William Dear old man, has this affecting scene taken away 
your appetite? 

Frederick It’s not the appetite I’m doubtful about* It’s 
the steak 



ACT HI 


5*a HOME A Is D BEAUTY 

William Oh, don’t you worry yourself about that I’ll 
just dish up [He goes over to the stove and frits to get the 
steak out of the frying-pan ] Come out, you great fat de\il 
It won’t come out 

Frederica That’s your trouble 

W illiam [Bringing the frying-pan to the fable] Ob, well, we 
can eat it just as well out of the filing-pan Shall I 
cane it* 

Frederick [Sitting down] Please 

[William takes a knife and stats to cut the* steak It 
non’t cut He apples font The steok resists 
stealthily A little surprised, WrxiLAM puts some - 
what more strength into it He mhs no empress ton 
He begins to grow i exed He starts to struggle He 
sets bis teeth It is all m vain TSe sweat pours 
from his brow Frederick watches hum in gloomy 
silence At last in a passion Wieliajm throws down 
the knife 

William [Furiously] Why don’t you say something, you 
fool? 

Frederick [Gently ] Shall I go and fetch my little hatchet^ 

William [Attacking the steak again angrily xwtb the knife ] 
I know my theory’s right If you cook a pound of meat 
a quarter of an hour you must cool three pounds of 
meat three quarters of an hour 

[A boy , carrying a large, square, rneni basket^ is seen 
coming donn the area steps He Anoerks M the door 

Frederick Hulloa, who’s this? [He goes to tie door and 
opens ] What can I do for you, my soot? 

Clarence Does Mrs Frederick Lowndes liire lerei* 

Frederick In a manner of speaking. 

Clarence [Coming m ] From the Ritas Hotel 

Frederick What’s that* Walk right ia* any bay* Put it 
on the table. 



ACT XII HOME AND BEAUTY 

William [Looking at the label ] With Mr Leicester Patou’s 
compliments 

Frederick It’s luncheon. 

Clarence I was told to give the basket to the lad? 
personally 

Frederick That’s all right, my boy 

Clarence If the lady’s not here I’m to take it back again 

William [Promptly ] She’s just coming downstairs [He 
goes to the door and calls ] Victoria, m? darling, that kind 
Mr Leicester Paton has sent you a little light refresh- 
ment from the Ritz 

Frederick There’s half-a-crowa for you, my lad Now, 
you hop it quick 

Clarence Thank you, sir. 

[Hr goes out 

Frederick Now you can eat the steak if you like I’m 
going to eat Victoria’s luncheon 

William It’s a damned unscrupulous thing to do M 
join you 

[They hurriedly begin to unpack the basket 

Frederick* [Taking off a cover ] What’s here? Chicken en 
casserole? 

William That’s all right. Here, give me that bottle and 
see me open it 

[He takes out a bottle of champagne and proceeds to 
open st 

Frederick Pate de foie gras Good Caviare? No Smoked 
salmon Stout fellow, Mr Leicester Paton. 

William Don’t stand there stanng at it Get it out* 

Frederick This is a regular beano. 

William I’m beginning to think the waogler won the war 
after alL 



ACT in 


324 HOME AND BEAUTY 

Frederick Mousse m jambon He’s got some idea of 
Victoria’s appetite 

William My dear fellow, love is alwavs blind 
Frederick Thank God for it, that’s all I say How’s that 
cork going* 

William Half a mo It’s just coming 
Frederick This is what I call a nice little snack Dear 
Victoria, she was a good sort 
William. In her wav 
Frederick But give me pate de fo e gras 
William [Get/ ng the bottle opened ] Pop Hand over your 
glass 

Frederick Here you are I’m as hungry as a trooper 
William Before we start, I want you to drink a toast 
Frederick 111 drink anything 

William [Holding up his glass ] Victoria’s third husband 
Frederick God help him! 

William And for us — liberty 

[As they dram their glasses the curtain falls quickly 


The End 



THE CIRCLE 


A COMEDY 
tn Three Arts 




CHARACTERS 


Clive Champion-Cheney 
Arnold Champion-Cheney, M P 
Lord Porteous 
Edward Luton 

Lady Catherine Champion-Ciieney 
Elizabeth 
Mrs Shenstone 
A Footman and a Butler 

The action fakes place at Aston- Adey\ Arnold 
Champion-Chenef s house tn Dorset * 




THE CIRCLE 

THE FIRST ACT 

The Seem ts a stately drawing-room at Aston-Adey, with fim 
pictures on the walls and Georgian furniture Aston-Adey 
has been described > with many illustrations , m Country Life 
It is not a bouse , but a place Its owner takes a great pride 
m it y and there ts nothing m the room which is not of the 
period Through the French windows at the back can be seen 
the beautiful gardens which are one of the features 

It is a fim summer morning 

Arnold comes m He is a man of about thirty-five, tall and 
good-looking, fasTy with a clean-cut, sensitive face He has a 
look that is intellectual, hut somewhat bloodless He ts very 
well dressed 

Arnold [Calling ] Elizabeth! [He goes to the window and 
calls again] Elizabeth! [He rings the bell While be ts 
wasting he gives a look round the room He slightly alters the 
position of om of the chairs He takes an ornament from the 
cbinmy-pieee and blows the dust from it ] 

[A Footman comes tn. 

Oh, George! See if you can find Mrs Cheney, ana ask 
her if she’d be good enough to come here* 

Footman Very good* sir. 

[Tin Footman turns to go 

Arnold Who is supposed to look after this room? 

Footman I don’t know, sir, 

Arnold: I wash when they dust they'd take care to replace 
the things exactly as they were before, 

5 



6 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT I 


Footman Yes, sit 

Arnold {Dismissing him ] All right 

[The Footman goes out He goes again to the window 
and sails 

Arnold Elizabeth 1 [He sees Mrs Shenstone ] Oh, Anna, 
do you know where Elizabeth is* 

[Mrs Shenstone comes m from the garden She is a 
woman of forty y pleasant and of elegant appearance 
Anna Isn’t she playing tennis* 

Arnold No, I’ve been down to the tennis court Some- 
thing very tiresome has happened 
Anna Oh* 

Arnold I wonder where the deuce she is 
Anna When do you expect Lord Porteous and Lady 
Kitty* 

Arnold They’re motoring down In time for luncheon 
Anna Are you sure you want me to be here* It’s not too 
late yet, you know I can have my things packed and 
catch a tram for somewhere or other 
Arnold No, of course we want you It’ll make it so much 
easier if there are people here It was exceedingly kind 
of you to come 
Anna Oh, nonsense! 

Arnold And I think it was a good thing to have Teddie 
Luton down 

Anna He is so breezy, isn’t he? 

Arnold Yes, that’s his great asset I don’t know that he’s 
very intelligent, but, you know, there are occasions when 
you want a bull in a china shop. I sent one of the 
servants to find Elizabeth 

Anna I daresay she’s putting on her shoes. She and Te<fo»e 
were going to have a single 

Arnold. It can’t take all this time to change one’s shoes. 



THE CIRCLE 


ACT I 


7 


Anna [Wifi a smile ] One can’t change one’s shoes without 
powdering one’s nose, you know 

[Eliz ibeth comes in She is a terj pretty creature m 
the early twenties She nears a light summer frock 
Arnold My dear, Fve been hunting for you everywhere 
What have you been doing 5 

Elizabeth Nothing 1 I’ve been standing on my head 

Arnold My father’s here 

Elizabeth [Startled] Where 5 

Arnold At the cottage He arrived last night. 

Elizabeth Damn! 

Arnold [Good-humouredly ] I wish you wouldn’t say that, 
Elizabeth 

Elizabeth If you’re not going to «a\ Damn when a 
thing’s damnab’c, when are you going to say Damn 5 
Arnold I should have thought you could say. Oh, 
bother! or something like that 
Elizabeth But that wouldn’t express mv sentiments 
Besides, at that speech day when you were gi\ mg away 
the prizes you said there were no synonyms in the 
English language 

Anna [Smiling ] Oh, Elizabeth! It’s very unfair to expect 
a politician to live in private up to the statements he 
makes in public 

Arnold I’m always willing to stand by anything I’ve said 
There are no synonyms in the English language 
Elizabeth In that case I shall be regretfully forced to 
continue to say Damn whenever I fed like it 

[Edward Luton shows himself at the window He is 
an attractive youth in flannels* 

Teddie I say, what about this tennis 5 
Elizabeth Come m We’re having a scene. 

Tbddie. [Entering ] How splendid! What about? 



8 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT I 


Elizabeth The English language 

Teddie Don’t tell me you’ve been splitting your infinitives 

Arnold [ With the shadow of a from ] I wish you’d be senous, 
Elizabeth The situation is none too pleasant 

Anna I think Teddie and I had better make ourselves 
scarce 

Elizabeth Nonsense! You’re both in it If there’s going 
to be any unpleasantness we want your moral support 
That’s why we asked you to come 

Teddie And I thought I’d been asked for my blue eyes 

Elizabeth Vain beastl And they happen to be brown* 

Teddie Is anything up? 

Elizabeth Arnold’s father arrived last night 

Teddie Did he, by Jove! I thought he was in Pans 

Arnold So did we all He told me he’d be there for the 
next month 

Anna Have you seen him? 

Arnold No! He rang me up It’s a mercy he had a tele- 
phone put m the cottage It would have been a pretty 
kettle of fish if he’d just walked m 

Elizabeth Did you tell him Lady Catherine was coming* 

Arnold Of course not I was flabbergasted to know he 
was here* And then I thought we’d better talk it over 
first. 

Elizabeth Is he coming along here? 

Arnold Yes He suggested it, and I couldn’t think of any 
excuse to prevent him. 

Teddie. Couldn’t you put the other people off? 

Arnold* They’re coming by car. They may be here any 
minute. It’s too late to do that 

Elizabeth Besides, it would be beastly. 



THE CIRCLE 


ACT I 


Arnold I knew it was sillv to have them here 
insisted 


9 

Elizabeth 


Elizabeth After all, she is your mother, Arnold 
Arnold That meant precious little to her w hen she — went 
aw ay You can't imagine it means very much to me now 
Elizabeth It’s thirty rears ago It seems so absurd to bear 
mahce after all that time 

Arnold I don’t bear malice, but the fact remains that she 
did me the most irreparable harm I can find no excuse 
tor her 


Elizabeth Have }ou ever tried to* 

Arnold My dear Elizabeth, it’s no good going over all that 
again The facts are lamentably simple She had a 
husband who adored her, a wonderful position, all the 
money she could want, and a child of five And she 
ran away with a married man 

Eliz ibeth Lady Porteous is not a very attractive woman, 
Arnold [Ta Anna ] Do you know her* 

Anna \Smdtng ] Forbidding is the word, I think 

Arnold It you’re going to make little jokes about it, I have 
nothing more to say 

Anna I’m sorry, Arnold 

Elizabeth Perhaps your mother couldn’t help herself— if 
she was m love? 

Arnold And had no sense of honour, duty, or decency* 
Oh, yes, under those circumstances you can explain a 
great deal 

Elizabeth That’s not a very pretty way to speak of your 
mother 

Arnold I can’t look on her as my mother 

Elizabeth What you can’t get over is that she didn’t think 
of you Some of us are more mother and some ot us 
more woman It gives me a little thrill when I th i nk that 


K 



IO 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT I 


she loved that man so much She sacrificed her name, 
her position and her child to him 
Arnold You really can’t expect the said child to have any 
great affection for the mother who treated him like that 
Elizabeth No, I don’t think I do But I think it’s a pity 
after all these years that you shouldn’t be friends 
Arnold I wonder if you realise what it was to grow up 
under the shadow of that horrible scandal Everywhere, 
at school, and at Oxford, and afterwards in London, 
I was always the son of Lady Kitty Cheney Oh, it was 
cruel, cruel! 

Elizabeth Yes, I know, Arnold It was beastly for you 
Arnold It would have been bad enough if it had been an 
ordinary case, but the position of the people made it 
ten times worse My father was in the House then, and 
Porteous — he hadn’t succeeded to the title — was in the 
House too, he was Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 
and he was very much m the public eye 
Anna My father always used to say he was the ablest man 
in the party Every one was expecting him to be 
Pnme Minister 

Arnold You can imagine what "a boon it was to the 
British public They hadn’t had such a treat for a 
generation The most popular song of the day was about 
my mother Did you ever hear it? "Naughty Lady 
Kitty Thought it such a pity ” 

Elizabeth interrupting} Oh, Arnold, don’t! 

Arnold And then they never let people forget them If 
they’d lived quietly in Florence and not made a fuss the 
scandal would have died down But those constant 
actions between Lord and Lady Porteous kept on 
reminding everyone 

Teddie What were they having actions about? 

Arnold Of course my father divorced hia wife, but Lady 



ACT I THE CIRCLE XX 

Porteous refused to divorce Porteous He tried to force 
her by refusing to support her and turning her out of her 
house, and heaven knows what They were constantly 
wrangling in the law courts 

Anna I think it was monstrous of Lady Porteous 

Arnold She knew he wanted to marry my mother, and she 
hated my mother You can't blame her 

Anna It must have been very difficult for them, 

Arnold That’s why they’ve lived in Florence Porteous 
has money They found people there who were willing 
to accept the situation 

Elizabeth This is the first time they’ve ever come to 
England 

Arnold My father will have to be told, Elizaoeth, 

Elizabeth Yes 

Anna [To Elizabeth ] Has he ever spoken to you about 
Lady Kitty^ 

Elizabeth Never 

Arnold I don’t think her name has passed his bps since 
she ran away from this house thirty years ago 

Teddie Oh, they lived here? 

Arnold Naturally There was a house-party, and one 
evening neither Porteous not my mother came down to 
dinner The rest of them waited They couldn’t make 
it out My father sent up to my mother’s room, and a 
note was found on the pin-cushion. 

Elizabeth [With a faint smile ] That’s what they did in 
the Dark Ages 

Arnold I think he took a dislike to this house from that 
horrible night He never lived here again, and when 
I married he handed the place over to me He just has 
a cottage now on the estate that he comes to when he 
feels inclined 



THE CIRCLE 


ACT I 


1Z 

Elizabeth It’s been very nice for us 

Arnold I owe everything to my father I don’t think he’ll 
ever forgive me for asking these people to come here 

Elizabeth I’m going to take all the blame on myself, 
Arnold 

Arnold [Irritably ] The situation was embarrassing enough 
anyhow I don’t know how I ought to treat them 

Elizabeth Don’t you think that’ll settle itself when you 
see them 

Arnold After all, they’re my guests I shall try and behave 
like a gentleman 

Elizabeth I wouldn’t We haven’t got central heating 

Arnold [Taking no notice ] Will she expect me to kiss hen* 

Elizabeth [With a smite j Surely 

Arnold It always makes me uncomfortable when people 
are effusive 

Anna But I can’t understand why you never saw her 
before* 

Arnold I believe she tried to see me when I was little, 
but my father thought it better she shouldn’t 

Anna Yes, but when you were grown up^ 

Arnold She was always in Italy I never went to Italy 

Elizabeth It seems to me so pathetic that if you saw one 
another in the street you wouldn’t recognise each other 

Arnold Is it my fault^ 

Elizabeth You’ve promised to be very gentle with h„r 
and very kind 

Arnold The mistake was asking Porteous to come too 
It looks as though we condoned the whole thing And 
how am I to treat hum* Am I to shake him by the hand 
and slap him on the back' 1 He absolutely ruined my 
father’s life 



ACT I THE CIRCLE 13 

Elizabeth [, Smiling ] How much would you give for a nice 
motor accident that prevented them from coming^ 
Arnold I let you persuade me against my better judgment, 
and I’ve regretted it ever since 
Elizabeth [ Good-humouredly ] I think it’s very lucky that 
Anna and Teddie are here I don’t foresee a very 
successful party 

Arnold Fm going to do my best I gave you my promise 
and I shall keep it But I can’t answer for my father 
Anna Here is your father 

[Mr Champion-Cheney shorn htmseJf at one of the 
french windows 

C ~C May I come in through the window, or shall I have 
myself announced by a supercilious flunkey^* 

Elizabeth Come m We’ve been expecting you 
C -C Impatiently, I hope, my dear child 

[Mr Champion-Cheney is a tall man m the early 
sixties, spare , , with a fine head of grey hair and an 
intelligent , somewhat ascetic face He is very carefully 
dressed He is a man who makes the most of himself 
He bears his years jauntily He kisses Elizabeth 
and then holds out his hand to Arnold 

Elizabeth We thought you’d be in Pans for another 
month 

C -C How are you, Arnold 5 I always reserve to myself the 
privilege of changing my mind It’s the only one elderly 
gentlemen share with pretty women 
Elizabeth You know Anna 

C -C [Shaking hands with her ] Of course I do How very 
nice to see you herei Are you staying long 5 
Anna As long as I’m welcome 
Elizabeth And this is Mr Luton, 

C -C How do you do 5 Do you play bridge? 



ACT I 


14 THE CIRCLE 

Luton I do 

C -C Capital Do you declare without top honours? 
Luton Never 

C -C Of such is the kingdom of heaven I see that you are 
a good young man 

Luton But, like the good in general, I am poor 
C-C Never mind, if your principles are right, you can 
play ten shillings a hundred without danger I never 
play less, and I never play more 
Arnold And you — are you going to stay long, father^ 

C -C To luncheon, if you'll have me 

[Arnold gives Elizabeth a harassed look 
Elizabeth That'll be jolly 

Arnold I didn't mean that Of course you're going to 
stay for luncheon I meant, how long are you going to 
stay down here? 

C-C A week. 

[There is a moments pause Everyone hut Champion- 
Cheney is slightly embarrassed 

Teddie I think we'd better chuck our tennis 
Elizabeth Yes I want my father-in-law to tell me what 
they're wearing in Paris this week 
Teddie. I'll go and put the rackets away 

[Tejudie goes out * 

Arnold It's nearly one o'clock, Elizabeth 
Elizabeth I didn't know it was so late. 

Anna [To Arnold ] I wonder if I can persuade you to 
take a turn in the garden before luncheon. 

Arnold [Jumping at the idea ] I'd love it. 

[Anna goes out of the window, and as be follows her he 
stops irresolutely 



ACT I THE CIRCLE 15 

I want you to look at this chair I’ve just got I think 
it’s rather good 
C -C Charming 

Arnold About 1750 , 1 should say Good design, isn’t it* 
It hasn’t been restored or anything 
C -C Very pretty 

Arnold I think it was a good buy, don’t you^ 

C -C Oh, my dear boy, you know I’m entirely ignorant 
about these things 

Arnold It’s exactly mv period . I shall see you at 
luncheon, then 

[Hi? follows Anna through the window 
C -C Who is that young man^ 

Elizabeth Mr Luton He’s only just been demobilised 
He’s the manager of a rubber estate in the F M S 
C -C And what are the F M S when they’re at home^ 
Elizabeth The Federated Malay States He joined up at 
the beginning of the war He’s just gomg back there 
C -C And why have we been left alone in this very marked 
manner^ 

Elizabeth Have we^ I didn’t notice it 
C -C I suppose it’s difficult for the young to realise that 
one may be old without being a fool 
Elizabeth I never thought you that Everyone knows 
you’re very intelligent 

C-C They certainly ought to by now I’ve told them 
often enough Are you a little nervous^ 

Elizabeth Let me feel my pulse [She puts her finger on 
her wrist ] It’s perfectly regular 

C -C When I suggested staying to luncheon Arnold looked 
exactly like a dose of castor oil 

Elizabeth I wish you’d sit down. 



ACT I 


1 6 THE CIRCLE 

C-O Will it make it easier for you? [He takes a chair] 
You have evidently something very disagreeable to 
say to me 

Elizabeth You won’t be cross with me? 

C -C How old are you? 

Elizabeth Twenty-five, 

C -C Fm never cross with a woman under thirty. 

Elizabeth Oh, then, I’ve got ten years. 

C -C Mathematics? 

Elizabeth No Paint 

C-C WelP 

Elizabeth Reflectively ] I think it would be easier if I sat 
on your knees 

C -C That is a pleasing taste of yours, but you must take 
care not to put on weight 

[She sits doun on his knees 

Elizabeth Am I boney? 

C -C On the contrary I’m listening 

Elizabeth Lady Catherine’s coming here. 

C -C Who’s Lady Catherine? 

Elizabeth Your — Arnold’s mother. 

C -C Is she? 

[He withdraws himself a little and Elizabeth gets up 

Elizabeth You mustn’t blame Arnold It’s my fault I 
insisted He was against it I nagged him till he gave 
way And then I wrote and asked her to come 

C-C I didn’t know you knew her 

Elizabeth I don’t But I heard she was in London. She’s 
staying at Clandge’s It seemed so heartless not to take 
the smallest notice of her 

C -C When is she coming? 

Elizabeth We’re expecting her in time for luncheon. 



ACT I THE CIRCLE 17 

C -C As soon as thap I understand the embarrassment 

Elizabeth You see, we never expected you to be here 
You said you’d be in Pans for another month 

C -C My dear child, this is your house There’s no reason 
why you shouldn’t ask whom you please to stay with 
you 

Elizabeth After all, whatever her faults, she’s Arnold’s 
mother It seemed so unnatural that they should never 
see one another My heart ached for that poor lonely 
woman 

C -C I never heard that she was lonely, and she certainly 
isn’t poor 

Elizabeth And there’s something else I couldn’t ask her 
by herself It would have been so — so insulting I asked 
Lord Porteous, too 

C -C I see 

Elizabeth I daresay you’d rather not meet them 

C-C I daresay they’d rather not meet me I shall get a 
capital luncheon at the cottage I’ve noticed you always 
get the best food if you come in unexpectedly and have 
the same as they’re having in the servants’ hall 

Elizabeth No one’s ever talked to me about Lady Kitty 
It’s always been a subject that everyone has avoided 
I’ve never even seen a photograph of her 

C -C The house was full of them when she left I think 
I told the butler to throw them in the dust-bin. She was 
very much photographed 

Elizabeth Won’t you tell me what she was like? 

C -C She was very like you, Elizabeth, only she had dark 
hair instead of red 

Elizabeth Poor dear! It must be quite white now 

C-C I daresay She was a pretty litde thing 



THE CIRCLE 


ACT I 


*8 

Elizabeth But she was one of the great beauties of her 
day They say she was lovely 

C -C She had the most adorable little nose, like yours 

Elizabeth D’you like my nose^ 

C ~C And she was very dainty, with a beautiful little figure 
very light on her feet She was like a marquise in an old 
French comedy Yes, she was lovely 

Elizabeth And I’m sure she’s lovely still 

C-C She’s no chicken, you know 

Elizabeth You can’t expect me to look at it as you and 
Arnold do When you’ve loved as she’s loved you may 
grow old, but you grow old beautifully 

C -C You’re very romantic 

Elizabeth If everyone hadn’t made such a mystery of it 
I daresay I shouldn’t feel as I do I know she did a great 
wrong to you and a great wrong to Arnold I’m willing 
to acknowledge that 

C -C I’m sure it’s very kind of you 

Elizabeth But she loved and she dared Romance is such 
an illusive thing You read of it in books, but it’s seldom 
you see it face to face I can’t help it if it thrills me 

C-C lam painfully aware that the husband in these cases 
is not a romantic object 

Elizabeth She had the world at her feet You were rich 
She was a figure in society And she gave up everything 
for love 

C -C [Drjly ] I’m beginning to suspect it wasn’t only for 
her sake and for Arnold’s that you asked her to come 
here 

Elizabeth I seem to know her already I think her face 
is a little sad, for a love like that doesn’t leave you gay, 
it leaves you grave, but I think her pale face is un lined. 
It’s like a child’s 



ACT I THE CIKCLE 19 

C -C My deaf, how you let your imagination run awa} 
with you 1 

Elizabeth I imagine her slight and frail 
C -C Frail, certainly 

Elizabeth With beautiful thin hands and white hair IVe 
pictured her so often in that Renaissance palace that 
they live in, with old masters on the walls and lovely 
carved things all round, sitting in a black silk dress with 
old lace round her neck and old-fashioned diamonds 
You see, I never knew my mother, she died when I was 
a baby You can’t confide in aunts with huge families 
of their own I want Arnold’s mother to be a mother 
to me I’ve got so much to say to her 

C -C Are you happy with Arnold ^ 5 
Elizabeth Why shouldn’t I he? 

C -C Why haven’t you got any babies^ 

Elizabeth Give us a little time We’ve only been married 
three years 

C -C I wonder what Hughie is like nou^ 

Elizabeth Lord Porteous* 

C -C He wore his clothes better than any man in London 
You know he’d have been Prime Minister if he’d 
remained m politics 
Elizabeth What was he like then^ 

C.-C He was a nice-looking fellow Fine horseman. I 
suppose there was something very fascinating about him 
Yellow hair and blue eyes, you know* He had a very 
good figure I liked him. I was his parliamentary 
secretary He was Arnold’s godfather* 

Elizabeth I know 
C -C I wonder if he ever regrets 
Elizabeth I wouldn’t. 

G-C Well, I must be strolling back to my cottage. 



zo 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT I 


Elizabeth You’re not angry with me^ 

C ~C Not a bit, 

[She puts up her face for him to hss He kisses her on 
both cheeks and then goes om In a moment Teddib 
is seen at the window 

Teddie I saw the old blighter go 
Elizabeth Come m 
Teddie Everything all righP 

Elizabeth Oh, quite, as far as he’s concerned He’s going 
to keep out of the way 
Teddie Was it beastly? 

Elizabeth No, he made it very easy for me He’s a nice 
old thmg 

Teddie You were rather scared 
Elizabeth A little I am still. I don’t know why 
Teddie I guessed you were I thought I’d come amd give 
you a little moral support It’s ripping here, lsqi’t lP 
Elizabeth It is rather nice 

Teddie It’ll be jolly to think of it when I’m back Jin the 
FMS 

Elizabeth Aren’t you homesick sometimes^ 

Teddie Oh, everyone is now and then* you know. 

Elizabeth You could have got a job in England if y^u’d 
wanted to, couldn’t you? 

Teddie Oh, but I love it out there. England’s ripping to 
come back to, but I couldn’t live here now ItVkke a 
woman you’re desperately in love with as long as you 
don’t see her, but when you’re with her she maddens 
you so that you can’t bear her 

Elizabeth [Smiling ] What’s wrong with England? 

Teddie I don’t think anything’s wrong with England 1 
expect something’s wrong with me. I’vgh^n away too 



\CTI THE CIRCLE It 

long England seems to me full of people doing things 
they don’t want to because other people expect it of 
them 

Elizabeth Isn’t that what you call a high degree of 
civilisation^ 

Teddie People seem to me so insincere When you go to 
parties m London they’re all babbling about art, and 
you feel that in their hearts they don’t care twopence 
about it They read the books that everybody is talking 
about because they don’t want to be out of it In the 
FMS we don’t get very many books, and we read, 
those we have over and over again They mean so much 
to us I don’t think the people over there are half so 
clever as the people at home, but one gets to know them 
better You see, there are so few of us that we have to 
make the best of one another 

Elizabeth I imagine that frills are not much worn in the 
FMS It must be a comfort 

Teddie It’s not much good being pretentious where 
everyone knows exactly who you are and what your 
mcome is 

Elizabeth I don’t think you want too much sincerity in 
society It would be like an iron girder in a house of 
cards 

Teddie And then, you know, the place is ripping You 
get used to a blue sky and you miss it in England 

Elizabeth What do you do with yourself all the time? 

Teddie Oh, one works like blazes You have to be a 
pretty hefty fellow to be a planter And then there’s 
ripping bathing You know, it’s lovely, with palm trees 
all along the beach And there’s shooting And now 
and then we have a little dance to a gramophone 

Elizabeth \Pretenchng to tease bm ] I think you’ve got a. 
young woman out there, Teddie. 



2 2 THE CIRCIE ACT I 

Teddie [Vehemently ] Oh, no! 

[She is a little taken aback by the earnestness of his dis- 
claimer There is a moment 9 s silence , then she recovers 
herself 

Elizabeth But you’ll have to marry and settle down one 
of these days, you know 

Teddie I want to, but it’s not a thmg you can do lightly 
Elizabeth I don’t know why there more than elsewhere 
Teddie In England if people don’t get on they go their 
own ways and jog along after a fashion In a place like 
that you’re thrown a great deal on your own resources 
Elizabeth Of course 

Teddie Lots of girls come out because they think they’re 
going to have a good time But if they’re empty-headed, 
then they’re just faced with their own emptiness and 
they’re done If their husbands can afford it they go 
home and settle down as grass-widows 
Elizabeth I’ve met them They seem to find it a very 
pleasant occupation 

Teddie It’s rotten for their husbands, though 
Elizabeth And if the husbands can’t afford lP 
Teddie Oh, then they tipple 
Elizabeth It’s not a very alluring prospect 

Teddie But if the woman’s the right sort she wouldn’t 
exchange it for any life in the world When all’s said and 
done, it’s we who’ve made the Empire 
Elizabeth What sort is the right sort^ 

Teddie A woman of courage and endurance and sincerity 
Of course, it’s hopeless unless she’s in love with her 
husband. 

[He is looking at her earnestly and she , raising her eyes * 
gives him a long look There is silence between them . 

Teddie My house stands on the side of a hill, and the 



ACT I 


THE CIRCLE 


2 3 


coconut trees wind down to the shore Azaleas grow 
in my garden, and camellias, and all sorts of npping 
flowers And in front of me is the winding coast line, 
and then the blue sea 

[A pause 

Do you know that Tm awfully in love with you 5 
Elizabeth [Gravely ] I wasn’t quite sure I wondered 
Teddie And you 5 

[She nods slowly 

I’ve never kissed you. 

Elizabeth I don’t want you to 

[They look at one another steadily They are both grave 
Arnold comes m hurriedly 

Arnold They’re coming, Elizabeth 
Elizabeth [As though returning from a distant world ] Who? 
Arnold [Impatiently ] My dearl My mother, of course 
The car is just coming up the drive. 

Teddie Would you like me to clear out 5 
Arnold No, nol For goodness’ sake stay. 

Elizabeth We’d better go and meet them, Arnold 
Arnold No, no, I think they’d much better be shown in 
I feel simply sick with nervousness. 

[Anna comes tn from the garden 
Anna Your guests have arrived 
Elizabeth Yes, I know 

Arnold I’ve given orders that luncheon should be served 
at once 

Elizabeth Why? It’s not half-past one already, is it? 
Arnold I thought it would help When you don’t know 
exactly what to say you can always eat. 

[The Butler comes tn and announces 
Butler Lady Catherine Champion-Cheney Lord Porteous* 



THE CIRCLE 


ACT I 


&4 

[Lady Kitty comes tn followed by Porteous, and the 
Butler goes out Lady Kitty is a gay Izttle lady, 
with dyed red hazr and painted cheeks She zs some- 
what outrageously dressed She never forgets that she 
has been a pretty woman and she still behaves as if 
she were twenty-five Lord Porteous is a very 
bald \ elderly gentleman tn loose , rather eccentric 
clothes He zs snappy and gruff This zs not at all 
the couple that Elizabeth expected, and for a 
moment she stares at them with round, startled eyes 
Lady Kitty goes up to her wzth outstretched hands 

Lady Kitty Elizabeth! Elizabeth! [She kisses her effusively ] 
What an adorable creature! [Turning to Porteous ] 
Hughie, isn’t she adorable^ 

Porteous [With a grunt ] Ugh! 

[Elizabeth, smiling now, turns to him and gives him 
her hand 

Elizabeth How d’you do^ 

Porteous Damnable road you’ve got down here How 
d’you do, my dear 5 Why d’you have such damnable 
roads in England^ 

[Lady Kitty’s eyes fall on Teddie and she goes up to 
him with her arms thrown back, prepared to throw 
them round him 

Lady Kitty My boy, my boy! I should have known you 
anywhere! 

Elizabeth [Hastily ] That’s Arnold 

Lady Kitty [Without a momenfs hesitation ] The image of 
his father! I should have known him anywhere! [She 
throws her arms round hzs neck ] My boy, my boy! 

Porteous [With a grunt ] Ugh* 

Lady Kitty Tell me, would you have known me again? 
Have I changed 15 

Arnold I was only five, you know, when — when you . . 



ACT I THE CIRCLE 2} 

Lady Kitty {Emotionally ] I remember as if it was yester- 
day I went up into your room [With a sudden change 
of manner ] By the way, I always thought that nurse 
drank Did you ewer find out if she really did* 
Porteous How the devil can you expect him to know that, 
Kitty* 

Lady Kitty YouVe never had a child, Hughie, how can 
you tell what they know and what they don’t* 
Elizabeth [Coming to the rescue ] This is Arnold, Lord 
Porteous 

Porteous [Shaking bands with him ] How d’you do* I knew 
your father 
Arnold Yes 
Porteous Alive still* 

Arnold Yes 

Porteous He must be getting on Is he well* 

Arnold Very 

Porteous Ugh! Takes care of himself, I suppose I’m not 
at all well This damned climate doesn’t agree with me 
Elizabeth [To Lady Kitty] This is Mrs Shenstone 
And this is Mr Luton I hope you don’t mind a very 
small party 

Lady Kitty [ Shaking hands mth Anna and Teddie ] Oh, 
no, I shall enjoy it I used to give enormous parties here 
Political, you know How nice you’ve made this room! 
Elizabeth Oh, that’s Arnold 

Arnold [Nervously ] D’you like this chair* I’ve just bought 
it It’s exactly my period 
Porteous [Bluntly ] It’s a fake 
Arnold [Indignantly ] I don’t think it is for a minute 
Porteous The legs are not right 

Arnold I don’t know how you can say that If there is 
anything right about it, it’s the legs 



THE CIRCLE 


ACT X 


z6 

Lady Kitty I’m sure they’re right 
Porteous You know nothing whatever about it, Kitty 
Lady Kitty That’s what you think I think it’s a beautiful 
chair Hepplewhite^ 

Arnold No, Sheraton 

Lady Kitty Oh, I know The School for Scandal 
Porteous Sheraton, my dear Sheraton 
Lady Kitty Yes, that’s what I say I acted the screen 
scene at some amateur theatricals in Florence, and 
Ermete Novelli, the great Italian tragedian, told me 
he’d never seen a Lady Teazle like me 
Popteous Ugh! 

Lady Kitty [To Elizabeth ] Do you acP 
Elizabeth Oh, I couldn’t I should be too nervous 

Lady Kitty I’m never nervous I’m a born actress Of 
course, if I had my time over again I’d go on the stage 
You know, it’s extraordinary how they keep young 
Actresses, I mean I think it’s because they’re always 
playing different parts Hughie, do you think Arnold 
takes after me or after his father* Of course I think he’s 
the very image of me Arnold, I think I ought to tell 
you that I was received into the Catholic Church last 
winter I’d been thinking about it for years, and last 
time we were at Monte Carlo I met such a nice mon- 
signore I told him what my difficulties were and he was 
too wonderful I knew Hughie wouldn’t approve, so I 
kept it a secret [To Elizabeth ] Are you interested m 
religion^ I think it’s too wonderful* We must have a 
long talk about it one of these days [Pomting to her 
frock ] CalloP 
Elizabeth No, Worth 

Lady Kitty I knew it was either Worth or Callot Of 
course, it’s line that’s the important thing I go to 
Worth myself, and I always say to him. Line, my dear 



ACT I 


THE CIRCLE 


*7 


Worth, line What is the matter, Hughie^ 

Porteous These new teeth of mine are so damned un- 
comfortable 

Lady Kitty Men are extraordinary They can't stand the 
smallest discomfort Why, a woman's life is uncomfort- 
able from the moment she gets up in the morning till 
the moment she goes to bed at night And d'you think 
it's comfortable to sleep with a mask on your face 

Porteous They don't seem to hold up properly 

Lady Kitty Well, that's not the fault of your teeth That's 
the fault of your gums 

Porteous Damned rotten dentist That's what's the 
matter 

Lady Kitty I thought he was a very nice dentist He 
told me my teeth would last till I was fifty He has a 
Chinese room It’s so interesting, while he scrapes your 
teeth he tells you all about the dear Empress Dowager 
Are you interested in China^ I think it's too wonderful 
You know they've cut off their pigtails I think it’s such 
a pity They were so picturesque 

[The Butler comes in 

Butler. Luncheon is served, sir 

Elizabeth Would you like to see your rooms? 

Porteous We can see our rooms after luncheon. 

Lady Kitty I must powder my nose, Hughie. 

Porteous Powder it down here 

Lady Kitty I never saw any one so inconsiderate, 

Porteous You'll keep us all waiting half an hour I know 
you 

Lady Kitty [Fumbling in her bag] Oh, well, peace at any 
price, as Lord Beaconsfield said. 

Porteous He said a lot of damned silly things, Kitty, but 
he never said that 



[Lady Kitty’s face changes Perplexity is follow’d by 
dismay , and dismay by consternation 

Lady Kitty Oh! 

Elizabeth What is the matter* 

Lady Kitty [ With anguish ] My lip-sticH 
Elizabeth Can’t you find it* 

Lady Kitty I had it in the car Hughie, you remember 
that I had it in the car 

Porteous I don’t remember anything about it 
Lady Kitty Don’t be so stupid, Hughie Why, when we 
came through the gates I said My home, my home! 
and I took it out and put some on my bps 
Elizabeth Perhaps you dropped it in the car 
Lady Kitty For heaven’s sake send someone to look for it 
Arnold I’ll ring 

Lady Kitty I’m absolutely lost without my lip-stick 
Lend me yours, darling, will you* 

Elizabeth I’m awfullv sorry I’m afraid I haven’t got one 
Lady Kitty Do you mean to say you don’t use a lip- 
stick? 

Elizabeth Never 

Porteous Look at her lips What the devil d’you think 
she wants muck like that for* 

Lady Kitty Oh, my dear, what a mistake you make! You 
must use a lip-stick It’s so good for the lips Men like it, 
you know I couldn’t live without a lip-stick 

[Champion-Cheney appears at the window holding m bis 
upstretched hand a little gold case 

C -C [As he comes m ] Has any one here lost a diminutive 
utensil containing, unless I am mistaken, a favourite pre- 
paration for the toilet* 

[Arnold and Elizabeth are thunderstruck at bis 



ACT I 


THE CIRCLE 29 

appearance and even Teddie and Anna are taken 
aback But Lady Kitty is overjoyed 

Lady Kitty My lip-sticki 

C -C I found it in the drive and I ventured to bring it in 
Lady Kitty It’s Saint Antony I said a little prayer to him 
when I was hunting in my bag 
Porteous Saint Antony be blowed! It’s Clive, by God 1 
Lady Kitty [ Startled , , her attention suddenly turning from the 
hp-stick ] Clivel 

C -C You didn’t recognise me It’s many years since we met 
Lady Kitty My poor Clive, your hair has gone quite 
white! 

C-C [Holding out his hand] I hope you h«*a a pleasant 
journey down from London 

Lady Kitty [Offering him her cheek ] You may kiss me, 
Clive 

C -C [Kissing her ] You Don’t mind, Hughie^ 

Porteous [ With a grunt ] UghI 

C -C [Going up to him cordially ] And how are you, my dear 
Hughie^ 

Porteous Damned rheumatic if you want to know 
Fdthy climate you have in this country 
C -C Aren’t you going to shake hands with me, Hughie? 
Porteous I have no objection to shaking hands with you 
C -C You’ve aged, my poor Hughie 
Porteous Someone was asking me how old you were the 
other day 

C -C Were they surprised when you told them? 

Porteous Surprised! They wondered you weren’t dead 

[The Butler comes in 

Butler Did you nng, sir* 

Arnold No Oh, yes, I did It doesn’t matter now. 



ACT I 


30 THE CIRCLE 

C -C [As the Butler ts going ] One moment My dear 
Elizabeth, I’ve come to throw myself on your mercy 
My servants are busy with their own affairs There’s not 
a thing for me to eat in my cottage 

Elizabeth Oh, but we shall be delighted if you’ll lunch 
with us 

C -C It either means that or my immediate death from 
starvation You don’t mind, Arnold^ 

Arnold My dear father* 

Elizabeth [To the Butler ] Mr Cheney will lunch here 

Butler* Very good, ma’am 

C-C [To Lady Kitty] And what do you think of 
Arnold^ 

Lady Kitty I adore him. 

C -C He’s grown, hasn’t he^ But then you’d expect him to 
do that in thirty years 

Arnold For God’s sake let’s go in to lunch, Elizabeth! 


END OF THE FIRST ACT 



THE SECOND ACT 


The Scene is the same as m the preceding Act 

It is afternoon When the curtain rises Porteous and Lady 
Kitty, Anna and Teddie are playing bridge Elizabeth 
and Champion-Cheney are watching Porteous and Lady 
Kitty are partners 

C -C When will Arnold be back, Elizabeth? 

Elizabeth Soon, I think 

C -C Is he addressing a meeting^ 

Elizabeth No, it’s only a conference with his agent and 
one or two constituents 

Porteous [Irritably ] How any one can be expected to play 
bridge when people are shouting at the top of their 
voices all round them, I for one cannot understand 

Elizabeth [Smiling ] I’m so sorry 

Anna I can see your hand, Lord Porteous 

Porteous It may help you 

Lady Kitty I’ve told you over and over again to hold 
your cards up It ruins one’s game when one can’t help 
seeing one’s opponent’s hand 

Porteous One isn’t obliged to look. 

Lady Kitty What was Arnold’s majority at the last 
election^ 

Elizabeth Seven hundred and something 

C -C He’ll have to fight for it if he wants to keep his seat 
next time 

Porteous Are we playing bridge, or talking politics^ 

Lady Kitty I never find that conversation interferes witn 
my game 



3 * 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT II 


Porteous You certainly play no worse when you talk than 
when you hold your tongue 

Lady Kitty I think that’s a very offensive thing to say, 
Hughie Just because I don’t play the same game as you 
do you think I can’t play 

Porteous I’m glad you acknowledge it’s not the same 
game as I play But why in God’s name do you call it 
bridge? 

C -C I agree with Kitty I hate people who play bridge as 
though they were at a funeral and knew their feet were 
getting wet 

Porteous Of couise you take Kitty’s part 

Lady Kitty That’s the least he can do 

C -C I have a naturally cheerful disposition 

Porteous You’ve never had anything to sour it 

Lady Kitty I don’t know what you mean by that, Hugbue 

Porteous [Trying to contain himself ] Must you trump my 
ace? 

Lady Kitty [Innocently ] Oh, was that your ace, darling? 
Porteous [Furiously] Yes, it was my ace 
Lady Kitty Oh, well, it was the only trump I had I 
shouldn’t have made it anyway 
Porteous You needn’t have told them that Now she 
knows exactly what I’ve got 
Lady Kitty She knew before 
Porteous How could she know? 

Lady Kitty She said she’d seen your hand 
Anna Oh, I didn’t I said I could see it 
Lady Kitty Well, I naturally supposed that if she could see 
it she did 

Porteous Really, Kitty, you have tne most extraordinary 
ideas 



THE CIRCLE 


ACT II 


33 


C -C Not at all If any one is such a fool as to show me ms 
hand, of course I look at it 

Porteous [Fuming ] If you study the etiquette of bridge, 
you’ll discover that onlookers are expected not to 
interfere with the game 

C-C My dear Hughie, this is a matter of ethics, not of 
bridge 

Anna Anyhow, I get the game And rubber, 

Teddie I claim a revoke 

Porteous Who revoked* 

Teddie You did 

Porteous Nonsense, I’ve never revoked in my life 

Teddie I’ll show you [He turns over the tricks to show the 
faces of the cards ] You threw away a club on the third 
heart tnck and you had another heart 

Porteous I never had more than two hearts. 

Teddie Oh, yes, you had Look here That’s the card you 
played on the last tnck but one 

Lady Kitty [Delighted to catch him out ] There’s no doubt 
about it, Hughie You revoked 

Porteous I tell you I did not revoke I never revoke 

C -C You did, Hughie I wondered what on earth you 
were doing 

Porteous I don’t know how any one can be expected not 
to revoke when there’s this confounded chatter going on 
all the time 

Teddie Well, that’s another hundred to us 

Porteous [To Champion-Cheney ] I wish you wouldn’t 
breathe down my neck I never can play bndge when 
there’s somebody breathing down my neck. 

[The party have risen from the bridge-table, and they scatter 
about the room 



34 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT Tjl 


Anna Well, Pm going to take a book and lie down in the 
hammock till it's time to dress 
Teddie [Who has been adding up ] FI1 put it down in the 
book, shall P 

Porteous [Who has not moved 9 setting out the cards for a 
patience ] Yes, yes, put it down I never revoke 

[Anna goes out 

Lady Kitty Would you like to come for a little stroll, 
Hughie* 

Porteous What for* 

Lady Kitty Exercise 
Porteous I hate exercise 

C -C [I oohng at the patience ] The seven goes on the eight 

[Porteous takes no notice 

Lady Kitty The seven goes on the eight, Hughie 
Porteous I don't choose to put the seven on the eight 
C -C That knave goes on the queen 
Porteous I'm not blind, thank you 
Lady Kitty The three goes on the four. 

C -C All these go over 

Porteous [Furiously ] Am I playing this patience, or are 
you playing it? 

Lady Kitty But you're missing e\ erythmg 
Porteous That's my business 
C -C It’s no good losing your temper over it, Hughie. 
Porteous Go away, both of you You irritate me 
Lady Kitty We were only trying to help you, Hughie 

Porteous I don't want to be helped I want to do it by 
myself 

Lady Kitty I think your manners are perfectly deplorable, 
Hughie* 



ACT B THE CIRCLE $5 

Porteous It's simply maddening when you’re playing 
patience and people won’t leave you alone 
C -C We won’t say another word 

Porteous That three goes I believe it’s coming out If 
I’d been such a fool as to put that seven up I shouldn’t 
have been able to bring these down 

[He puts down several cards while they watch him silently 
Lady Kitty and C -C [Together ] The four goes on the 
five 

Porteous [Throwing down the cards violently ] Damn you! 

Why don’t you leave me alone^ It’s intolerable 
C -C It was coming out, my dear fellow 
Porteous I know it was coming out Confound you! 
Lady Kitty How petty you are, Hughiel 
Porteous Petty, be damned! I’ve told you over and over 
again that I will not be interfered with when I’m playing 
patience 

Lady Kitty Don’t talk to me like that, Hughie 
Porteous I shall talk to you as I please. 

Lady Kitty [Beginning to cry ] Oh, you brute! You brute! 

[She flings out of the room 

Porteous Oh, damn! Now she’s going to cry 

[He shambles out into the garden Champion-Cheney, 
Elizabeth and Teddie are left alone There is a 
moment’s pause Champion-Cheney looks from 
Teddie to Elizabeth, with an ironical smile 
C -C Upon my soul, they might be married They fnp so 
much 

Elizabeth [Frigidly ] It’s been nice of you to come here so 
often since they arrived. It’s helped to make things 
easy 

C-C Irony? It’s a rhetorical form not much favoured in 
this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. 



THE CIRCLE 


ACT 33 


3 * 

Elizabeth What exactly are you getting at^ 

C-C How slangy the young women of the present day 
arel I suppose the fact that Arnold is a purist leads you to 
the contrary extravagance 
Elizabeth Anyhow you know what I mean 
C -C [With a smile ] I have a dim, groping suspicion 
Elizabeth You promised to keep away Why did you 
come back the moment they arrived^ 

C-C Curiosity, my dear child A surely pardonable 
curiosity 

Elizabeth And since then you’ve been here all the time 
You don’t generally favour us with so much of your 
company when you’re down at your cottage 
C -C I’ve been excessively amused 
Elizabeth It has struck me that whenever they started 
flipping you took a malicious pleasure in goading them 
on 

C-C I don’t think there’s much love lost between them 
now, do you ? 

[Teddie is making as though to leave the room 
Elizabeth Don’t go, Teddie 

C-C No, please don’t I’m only staying a minute We 
were talking about Lady Kitty just before she arrived 
[To Elizabeth] Do you remember^ The pale, frail 
lady in black satin and old lace 
Elizabeth, [With a chuckle ] You are a devil, you know 
C-C Ah, well, he’s always had the reputation of being a 
humorist and a gentleman 

Elizabeth Did you expect her to be like that, poor dear? 

C -C My dear child, I hadn’t the vaguest idea You were 
asking me the other day what she was like when she ran 
away I didn’t tell you half She was so gay and so 
natural Who would have thought that animation would 



ACT II THE CIRCLE 37 

turn into such frivolity, and that charming impulsiveness 
lead to such a ridiculous affectation^ 

Elizabeth It rather sets my nerves on edge to hear the 
way you talk of her 

C -C It’s the truth that sets your nerves on edge, not I 

Elizabeth You loved Irer once Have you no feeling for 
her at alP 

C -C None Why should P 

Elizabeth She’s the mother of your son 

C -C My dear child, you have a charming nature, as 
simple, frank and artless as hers was Don’t let pure 
humbug obscure your common sense 

Elizabeth We have no right to judge She’s only been 
here two days We know nothing about her 

C-C My dear, her soul is as thickly rouged as her face 
She hasn’t an emotion that’s sincere She’s tinsel You 
think I’m a cruel, cynical old man Why, when I think of 
what she was, if I didn’t laugh at what she has become I 
should cry 

Elizabeth How do you know she wouldn’t be just the 
same now if she’d remained your wife^ Do you think 
your influence would have had such a salutary effect on 
her* 

C -C \Good-humouredly ] I like you when you’re bitter and 
rather insolent 

Elizabeth D’you like me enough to answer my question^* 

C-C She was only twenty-seven when she went away 
She might have become anything She might have 
become the woman you expected her to be There are 
very few of us who are strong enough to make circum- 
stances serve us We are the creatures of our environ- 
ment She’s a silly worthless woman because she’s led a 
silly worthless life. 



*8 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT II 


Elizabeth [Disturbed] You’re horrible to-day 

C -C I don’t say it's I who could have prevented her from 
becoming this ridiculous caricature of a pretty woman 
grown old But life could Here she would have had the 
friends fit to her station* and a decent activity, and 
worthy interests Ask her what her life has been «11 
these years among divorced women and kept women 
and the men who consort with them There is no more 
lamentable pursuit than a life of pleasure 

Elizabeth At all events she loved and she loved greatly 
I have only pity and affection for her 

C -C And if she loved what d’you think she felt when she 
saw that she had ruined Hughie ? Look at him He was 
tight last night after dinner and tight the night before 

Elizabeth I know 

C -C And she took it as a matter of course How long do 
you suppose he’s been getting tight every mght p Do 
you think he was like that thirty years ago^ Can you 
imagine that that was a brilliant young man, whom every 
one expected to be Prime Minister^ Look at him now 
A grumpy sodden old fellow with false teeth. 

Elizabeth You have false teeth, too 

C -C Yes, but damn it all, they fit She’s ruined him and 
she knows she’s ruined him 

Elizabeth [Looking at him suspiciously] Why are you 
saying all this to me ? 

C -C Am I hurting your feelings^ 

Elizabeth I thank I’ve had enough for the present 

C -C I’ll go and have a look at the gold-fish I want to see 
Arnold when he comes in [Politely ] I’m afraid we’ve 
been boring Mr Luton. 

Teddie Not at all* 

C -C When are you going back to the F M S ? 



ACT II 


THE CIRCLE 


39 


Teddie In about a month 
C-C I see 

[He goes out 

Elizabeth I wonder what he has at the back of his head 
Teddie D’you think he was talking at you? 

Elizabeth He’s as clever as a bagful of monkeys 

[There is a moment* s pause Teddie hesitates a little > 
and when he speaks it is in a different tone He is grave 
and somewhat nervous 

Teddie It seems very difficult to get a few minutes alone 
with you I wonder if you’ve been making it difficult? 

Elizabeth I wanted to think. 

Teddie I’ve made up my mind to go away to-morrow 
Elizabeth Why^ 

Teddie I want you altogether or not at all 
Elizabeth You’re so arbitrary 
Teddie You said you — you said you cared for me 
Elizabeth Ido 

Teddie Do you mind if we talk it over now^ 

Elizabeth No 

Teddie [Frowning] It makes me feel rather shy and 
awkward I’ve repeated to myself over and over again 
exactly what I want to say to you, and now all I’d 
prepared seems rather footling*/ 

Elizabeth I’m so afraid I’m going to cry 
Teddie I feel it’s all so tremendously serious and I think 
we ought to keep emotion out of it You’re rather 
emotional, aren’t you^ 

Elizabeth [Half smiling and half m tears ] So are you for the 
matter of that 

Teddie. That’s why I wanted to have everything I meant to 
say to you cut and dried I think it would be awfully 



40 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT n 


unfair if I made love to you and all that sort of thing, 
and you were earned away I wrote it all down and 
thought I’d send it you as a letter 

Elizabeth Why didn’t you? 

Teddie I got the wind up A letter seems so — so cold 
You see, I love you so awfully 

Elizabeth For goodness’ sake don’t say that 

Teddie You mustn’t cry Please don’t, or I shall go all to 
pieces 

Elizabeth [Trying to smile ] I’m sorry It doesn’t mean 
anything really It’s only tears running out of my eyes 

Teddie Our only chance is to be awfully matter-of-fact 

[He stops for a moment He finds it quite difficult to 
control himself He clears his throat He frowns with 
annoyance at him self 

Elizabeth What’s the matter 1 

Teddie I’ve got a sort of lump in my throat It is idiotic 
I think I’ll have a cigarette 

[She watches him in silence while he lights a cigarette 

You see, I’ve never been in love with anvone before, not 
really It’s knocked me endways I don’t know how I 
can live without you now « . Does that old fool 
know I’m in love with you? 

ELIZABETH I think so 

Teddie When he was talking about Lady Kitty smashing 
up Lord Porteous’ career I thought there was something 
at the back of it 

Elizabeth I think he was trying to persuade me not to 
smash up yours 

Teddie, I’m sure that’s very considerate of him, but I don’t 
happen to have one to smash I wish I had It’s the only 
time in my life I’ve wished I were a hell of a swell so that 



ACT II THE CIRCLE 41 

I could chuck it all and show you how much more you 
are to me than anything else in the world 
Elizabeth [Affectionately ] You’re a dear old thmg 9 
Teddie 

Teddie You know, I don’t really know how to make love, 
but if I did I couldn’t do it now because I just want to be 
absolutely practical 

Elizabeth [Chaffing him ] I’m glad you don’t know how to 
make love It would be almost more than I could bear 
Teddie You see, I’m not at all romantic and that sort of 
thing I’m just a common or garden business man All 
this is so dreadfully serious and I think we ought to be 
sensible 

Elizabeth [With a break m her voice ] You owl* 

Teddie No, Elizabeth, don’t say things like that to me I 
want you to consider all the pros and cons 3 and my 
heart’s thumping against my chest, and you know I love 
you, I love you, I love you 
Elizabeth [In a sigh of passion] Oh, my precious 
Teddie [. Impatiently , but with himselp , rather than with 
Elizabeth ] Don’t be idiotic, Elizabeth I’m not going 
to tell you that I can’t live without you and a lot of muck 
like that You know that you mean everything in the 
world to me [Almost giving it up as a bad job ] Oh, my 
God! * 

Elizabeth [Her voice faltering ] D’you think there’s any- 
thing you can say to me that I don’t know already* 
Teddie [. Desperately J But I haven’t said a single thing I 
wanted to I’m a business man and I want to put it all in a 
business way, if you understand what I mean 
Elizabeth [Smiling] I don’t believe you’re a very good 
business man 

Teddie [Sharply ] You don’t know what you’re talking 
about I’m a first-rate business man, but somehow this 


N 



4 * 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT II 


is different [Hopelessly ] I don’t know why it won’t go 

aght 

Elizabeth What are we going to do about xt> 

Teddie You see, it’s not just because you’re awfully pretty 
that I love you I’d love you just as much if you were old 
and ugly It’s you I love, not what you look like And 
it’s not only love, love be blowed! It’s that I like you so 
tremendously I think you’re such a ripping good sort 
I just want to be with you I feel so jolly and happy just 
to think you’re there I’m so awfully fond of you 

Elizabeth [Laughing through her tears ] I don’t know if this 
is your idea of introducing a business proposition 

Teddie Damn you, you won’t let me 

Elizabeth You said. Damn you 

Teddie I meant it 

Elizabeth Your voice sounded as if you meant, you 
perfect duck 

Teddie Really, Elizabeth, you’re intolerable 

Elizabeth I’m doing nothing 

Teddie Yes, you are, you’re putting me off my blow 
What I want to say is perfectly simple I’m a very 
ordinary business man 

Elizabeth You’ve said that before. 

Teddie [Angrily ] Shut up I haven’t got a bob besides 
what I earn I’ve got no position I’m nothing You’re 
rich and you’re a big pot and you’ve got everything that 
anyone can want It’s awful cheek my saying anything 
to you at all But after all there’s only one thing that 
really matters in the world, and that’s love I love you 
Chuck all this, Elizabeth, and come to me 

Elizabeth Are you cross with me? 

Teddie Furious 

Elizabeth Darlingl 



THE CIRCLE 


ACT n 


43 


Teddie If you don’t want me tell me so at once and let me 
get out quickly 

Elizabeth Teddie, nothing in the world matters anything 
to me but you I’ll go wherever you take me I love you 

Teddie [All to pieces ] Oh, my God! 

Elizabeth Does it mean as much to you as that p Oh, 
Teddie* 

Teddie [Trying to control himself \ Don’t be a fool, Elizabeth 

Elizabeth It’s you’re the fool You’re making me cry 

Teddie You’re so damned emotional 

Elizabeth Damned emotional yourself I’m sure you’re a 
rotten business man 

Teddie I don’t care what you think You’ve made me so 
awfully happy I say, what a lark life’s going to be 

Elizabeth Teddie, you are an angel 

Teddie Let’s get out quick. It’s no good wasting time 
Elizabeth 

Elizabeth WhaP 

Teddie Nothing I just like to say Elizabeth 

Elizabeth You fool 

Teddie I say, can you shoot* 

Elizabeth No 

Teddie I’ll teach you You don’t know how ripping it is 
to start out from your camp at dawn and travel through 
^ the jungle And you’re so tired at night and the sky’s all 
starry It’s a fair treat Of course I cLdn’t want to say 
anything about all that till you’d decided. I’d made up 
my min d to be absolutely practical 

Elizabeth [Chaffing him ] The only practical thing you said 
was that love is the only thing that really matters 

Teddie [Happily] Pull the other leg next time, will you? I 
should hate to have one longer than the other* 



44 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT n 


Elizabeth Isn’t it fan being in love with someone who’s 
in love with you? 

Teddie I say, I think Fd better clear out at once, don’t 
yoiP It seems rather rotten to stay on in — in this house 

Elizabeth You can’t go to-night There’s no train. 

Teddie I’ll go to-morrow I’ll wait in London till you’re 
ready to jom me 

Elizabeth I’m not going to leave a note on the pincushion 
like Lady Kitty, you know I’m going to tell Arnold 

Teddie Are you? Don’t you think there’ll be an awful 
bother^ 

Elizabeth I must face it I should hate to be sly and 
deceitful 

Teddie Well, then, let’s face it together 

Elizabeth No, I’ll talk to Arnold by myself 

Teddie You won’t let anyone influence you? 

Elizabeth No 

He holds out his hand and she takes it They look into one 
another's eyes with grave, almost solemn affection 
There is the sound outside of a car driving up 

Elizabeth There’s the car Arnold’s come back I must 
go and bathe my eyes I don’t want them to see I’ve 
been crying 

Teddie All right [As she is going ] Elizabeth* 

Elizabeth [Stopping] What? 

Teddie Bless you 

Elizabeth [. Affectionately ] Idiotl 

[She goes out of the door and Teddie through the jrencb 
window into the garden For an instant the room is 
empty Arnold comes in He sits donm and takes 
some papers out of bis dispatch-case Lady Kitty 
enters He gets up. 



Acrn 


THE CIRCLE 


45 


Lady Kitty I saw you come in Oh, my dear, don’t get 
up There’s no reason why you should be so dreadfully 
polite to me 

Arnold I’ve just rung for a cup of tea 

Lady Kitty Perhaps we shall have the chance of a little 
talk We don’t seem to have had five minutes by 
ourselves I want to make your acquaintance, you know 

Arnold I should like you to know that it’s not by my wish 
that my father is here 

Lady Kitty But I’m so interested to see him 

Arnold I was afraid that you and Lord Porteous must find 
it embarrassing 

Lady Kitty Oh, no Hughie was his greatest friend 
Thev were at Eton and Oxford together I think your 
father has improved so much since I saw him last He 
wasn’t good-looking as a young man, but now he’s quite 
handsome 

[The Footman brings in a tray on which are tea-things 

Lady Kitty Shall I pour it out for you? 

Arnold Thank you very much 

Lady Kitty Do you take sugar? 

Arnold No I gave it up during the war 

Lady Kitty So wise of you It’s so bad for the figure 
Besides being patriotic, of course Isn’t it absurd that I 
should ask my son if he takes sugar or not^ Life is really 
very quaint Sad, of course, but oh, so quaint! Often I 
lie in bed at night and have a good laugh to myself as I 
think how quaint life is 

Arnold I’m afraid I’m a very serious person. 

Lady Kitty How old are you now, Arnold^ 

Arnold Thirty-five 

Lady Kitty Are you really^ Of course, I was a child when 
I married you r father. 



THE CIRCLE 


ACT II 


46 

Arnold Really He always told me you were twenty-two 

Lady Kitty Oh, what nonsense! Why, I was married out 
of the nursery I put my hair up for the first time on my 
wedding-day 

Arnold Where is Lord Porteous? 

Lady Kitty My dear, it sounds too absurd to hear you call 
him Lord Porteous Why don’t you call him — Uncle 
Hughie^ 

Arnold He doesn’t happen to be my uncle 

Lady Kitty No, but he’s your godfather You know. I’m 
sure you’ll like him when you know him better I’m so 
hoping that you and Elizabeth will come and stay with 
us in Florence I simply adore Elizabeth She’s too 
beautiful 

Arnold Her hair is very pretty 

Lady Kitty It’s not touched up, is it* 

Arnold Oh, no 

Lady Kitty I just wondered It’s rather a coincidence that 
her hair should be the same colour as mine I suppose it 
shows that your father and you are attracted by just the 
same thing So interesting, heredity, isn’t it* 

Arnold Very 

Lady Kitty Of course, since I joined the Catholic Church I 
don’t believe in it any more Darvm and all that sort of 
thing Too dreadful Wicked, you know Besides, it’s 
not very good form, is 1 t* 

[Champion-Cheney comes m from the garden 

C -C Do I intrude* 

Lady Kitty Come in, Clive Arnold and I have been 
having such a wonderful heart-to-heart talk. 

C -C Very nice 

Arnold Father, I stepped in for a moment at the Harveys’ 



ACT II THE CIRCLE 47 

on my way back It's simply criminal what they’re doing 
with that house 
C -C What are they doing^ 

Arnold It’s an almost perfect Georgian house and they’ve 
got a lot of dreadful Victorian furniture I gave them my 
ideas on the subject, but it’s quite hopeless They said 
they were attached to their furniture 
C -C Arnold should have been an interior decorator 
Lady Kitty He has wonderful taste He gets that from me 
Arnold I suppose I have a certain flair I have a passion 
for decorating houses 

Lady Kitty You’ve made this one charming 
C -C D’you remember, we just had chintzes and comfort- 
able chairs when we lived here, Kitty 
I ady Kitty Perfectly hideous, wasn’t it> 

C -C In those days gentlemen and ladies were not expected 
to have taste 

Arnold You know. I’ve been looking at this chair again 
Smce Lord Porteous said the legs weren’t right I’ve been 
very uneasy 

Lady Kitty He only said that because he was in a bad 
temper 

C -C His temper seems to me very short these days, Kitty 
Lady Kitty Oh, it is 

Arnold You feel he knows what he’s talking about I 
gave seventy-five pounds for that chair I’m very 
seldom taken in I always think if a thing’s right you 
feel it 

C -C Well, don’t let it disturb your night’s rest 
Arnold But, my dear father, that’s just what it does I had 
a most horrible dream about it last night 
Lady Kitty Here is Hughie 

Arnold I’m going to fetch a book I have on Old English 



48 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT II 


furniture There’s an illustration of a chair which is 
almost identical with this one 

[Porteous comes in 

Porteous Quite a family gathering, by Georgel 
C ~C I was thinking just now we’d make a very pleasing 
picture of a typical English home 
Arnold I’ll be back in five minutes There’s something I 
want to show you. Lord Porteous 

[He goes out 

C -C Would you like to play piquet with me, Hughie^ 
Porteous Not particularly 

C -C You were never much of a piquet player, were you? 
Porteous My dear Clive, you people don’t know what 
piquet is in England 

C -C Let’s have a game then You may make money 
Porteous I don’t want to play with you 
Lady Kitty I don’t know why not, Hughie 
Porteous Let me tell you that I don’t like your manner 
C -C I’m sorry for that I’m afraid I can’t offer to change it 
at my age 

Porteous I don’t know what you want to be hanging 
around here for 

C -C A natural attachment to my home 
Porteous If you’d had any tact you’d have kept out of the 
way while we were here 

C -C My dear Hughie, I don’t understand your attitude at 
all If I’m willing to let bygones be bygones why should 
you object^ 

Porteous Damn it all, they’re not bygones 

C -C After all, I am the injured party 

Porteous How the devil are you the injured party? 

C-C Well, you did run away with my wife, didn’t you? 



ACT II THE CIRCLE 49 

Lady Ktity Now, don’t let’s go into ancient history I 
can’t see why we shouldn’t all be friends 

Porteous I beg you not to interfere, Kitty 

Lidy Kitty I’m very fond of Clive 

Porteous You never cared two straws for Clive You only 
say that to irritate me 

Lady Kitty Not at all I don’t see why he shouldn’t come 
and stay with us 

C -C I’d love to I think Florence in spring-time is delight- 
ful Have you central heating? 

Porteous I never liked you, I don’t like you now, and I 
never shall like you 

C -C Howvery unfortunate! Because I liked you,I like you 
now, and I shall continue to like you 

Lady Kitty There’s something very nice about you, Clive 

Porteous If you think that, why the devil did you leave 
him? 

Lady Kitty Are you going to reproach me because I loved 
you? How utterly, utterly, utterly detestable you are! 

C -C Now, now, don’t quarrel with one another 

Lady Kitty It’s all his fault I’m the easiest person in the 
world to live with But really he’d try the patience of a 
samt 

C-C Come, come, don’t get upset, Kitty When two 
people live together there must be a certain amount of 
give and take 

Porteous I don’t know what the devil you’re talking 
about* 

C -C It hasn’t eg pped my observation that you are a little 
inclined tajrip^ Many couples are I think it’s a pity 

Porteous Would you have the very great kindness to 
mind your own business? 



ACT IX 


50 THE CIRCLE 

Lady Kitty It is his business He naturally wants me to be 
happy 

C -C I have the very greatest affection for Kitty 
Porteous Then why the devil didn’t you look after her 
properly^ 

C-C My dear Hughie, you were my greatest friend I 
trusted you It may have been rash 
Porteous It was inexcusable 

Lady Kitty 1 don’t know what you mean by that, Hughie 
Porteous Don’t, don’t, don’t try and bully me, Kitty 
Lady Kitty Oh, I know what you mean 
Porteous Then why the devil did you say you didn’t? 

Lady Kitty When I think that I sacrificed everything for 
that manl And for thirty years I’ve had to live in a 
filthy marble palace with no sanitary conveniences 

C -C D’you mean to say you haven’t got a bathroom? 

Lady Kitty I’ve had to wash in a tub 
C -C My poor Kitty, how you’ve suffered! 

Porteous Really, Kitty, I’m sick of hearing of the sacrifices 
you made I suppose you think I sacrificed nothing I 
should have been Prime Minister by now if it hadn’t been 
for you 

Lady Kitty Nonsense! 

Porteous What do you mean by that? Every one said I 
should be Prime Minister Shouldn’t I have been Prune 
Minister, Clive^ 

C-C It was certainly the general expectation 
Porteous I was the most promising young man of my day 
I was bound to get a seat in the Cabinet at the next 
election 

Lady Kitty They’d have found you out just as I’ve found 
you out I’m sick of hearing that I ruined your careen 



ACTII THE CIRCLE JX 

You never had a career to ruin Pnme Minister! You 
haven’t the brain You haven’t the character 

C -C Cheek, push, and a gift of the gab will serve very well 
instead, you know 

Lady Kitty Besides, in politics it’s not the men that 
matter It’s the women at the back of them I could have 
made Clive a Cabinet Minister if I’d wanted to 

Porteous Clive? 

Lad y Kitty With my beauty, my charm, my force of 
character, my wit, I could have done anything 

Porteous Clive was nothing but my political secretary 
When I was Pnme Minister I might have made him 
Governor of some Colony or other Western Australia 
say Out of pure kindliness 

Lady Kitty [ With flashing ejes ] D’you think I would have 
buried myself in Western Australia? With my beauty? 
My charm? 

Porteous Or Barbadoes, perhaps 

Lady Kitty [Furiously ] Barbadoes! Barbadoes can go to 
— Barbadoes 

Porteous That’s all you’d have got 

Lady Kitty Nonsense! I’d have India 

Porteous I would never have given you India 

Lady Kitty You would have given me India 

Porteous I tell you I wouldn’t 

Lady Kitty The King would have given me India The 
nation would have insisted on my having India I would 
have been a vice-reine or nothing 

Porteous I tell you that as long as the interests of the 
British Empire — Damn it all, my teeth are coming out! 

[He hurries from the room 

Lady Kitty It’s too much* I can’t bear it any more. I’ve 



5 * 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT n 


put up with him for thirty years and now Pm at the end 
of my tether 

C -C Calm yourself, my dear Kitty 

Lady Kitty I won’t listen to a word Fve quite made up 
my mind It’s finished, finished, finished [With a 
change of tone ] I was so touched when I heard that you 
never lived in this house again after I left it 

C -C The cuckoos have always been very plentiful 
Their note has a personal application which, I must say, I 
have found extremely offensive 

Lady Kitty When I saw that you didn’t marry again I 
couldn’t help thinking that you still loved me 

C-C I am one of the few men I know who is able to 
profit by experience 

Lady Kitty In the eyes of the Church I am still your wife 
The Church is so wise It knows that in the end a 
woman always comes back to her first love Clive, I am 
willing to return to you 

C-C My dear Kitty, I couldn’t take advantage of your 
momentary vexation with Hughie to let you take a step 
which I know you would bitterly regret 

Lady Kitty You’ve waited for me a long time For 
Arnold’s sake 

C -C Do you think we really need bother about Arnold^ 
In the last thirty years he’s had time to grow used to the 
situation 

Lady Kitty [With a little smile ] I think I’ve sown my wild 
oats, Clive 

C-C I haven’t I was a good young man, Kitty. 

Lady Kitty I know 

C -C And Pm very glad, because it has enabled me to be a 
wicked old one 

Lady Kitty I beg your pardon. 

[Arnold comes tn with a large book m his hard \ 



ACT II THE CIRCLE 53 

Arnold I say. I’ve found the book I was hunting for Oh, 
isn’t Lord Porteous here^ 

Lady Kitty One moment, Arnold Your father and I are 
busy 

Arnold I’m so sorry 

[He goes out into the g*t aen 

Lady Kitty Explain yourself, Clive 

C -C When you ran away from me, Kitty, I was sore and 
angry and miserable But above all I felt a fool 

Lady Kitty Men are so vain 

C-C But I was a student of history, and presently I 
reflected that I shared my misfortune with very nearly all 
the greatest men 

Lady Kitty I’m a great reader myself It has always struck 
me as peculiar 

C-C The explanation is very simple Women dislike 
intelligence, and when they find it in their husbands they 
revenge themselves on them in the only way they can, by 
making them — well, what you made me 

Lady Kitty It’s ingenious It may be true 

C-C I felt I had done my duty by society and I determined 
to devote the rest of my life to my own entertainment 
The House of Commons had always bored me excessively 
and the scandal of our divorce gave me an opportunity to 
resign my seat I have been relieved to find that the 
country got on perfectly well without me 

Lady Kitty But has love never entered your life^ 

C ~C Tell me frankly, Kitty, don’t you think people make a 
lot of unnecessary fuss about love? 

Lady Kitty It’s the most wonderful thing in the world 

C-C You’re incorrigible Do you really think it was worth 
sacrificing so much for? 



ACT n 


54 THE CIRCLE 

Lady Kitty My dear Clive, I don’t mind telling you that if 
I had my time over again I should be unfaithful to you, 
but I should not leave you 

C -C For some years I was notoriously the prey of a secret 
sorrow But I found so many charming creatures who 
were anxious to console that in the end it grew rather 
fatiguing Out of regard to my health I ceased to fre- 
quent the drawing-rooms of Mayfair 

Lady Kitty And since then? 

C-C Since then I have allowed myself the luxury of 
assisting financially a succession of dear little things, in a 
somewhat humble sphere, between the ages of twenty 
and twenty-five 

Lady Kitty I cannot understand the infatuation of men for 
young girls I think they’re so dull 

C -C It’s a matter of taste I love old wine, old friends and 
old books, but I like young women On their twenty- 
fifth birthday I give them a diamond ring and tell them 
they must no longer waste their youth and beauty on an 
old fogey like me We have a most affecting scene, my 
technique on these occasions is perfect, and then I start 
all over again 

Lady Kitty You’re a wicked old man, Clive 

C -C That’s what I told you But, by Georgel I’m a happy 
one 

Lady Kitty There’s only one course open to me now 

C -C What is that/ 

Lady Kitty {With a flashing smile ] To go and dress for 
dinner 

C -C Capital I will follow your example 

[As Lady Kitty goes out Elizabeth comes m 

Elizabeth Where is Arnold^ 

C -C He’s on the terrace I’ll call him. 



ACT II THE CIRCLE 55 

Elizabeth Don't bother 

C -C I was just strolling along to my cottage to put on a 
dinner jacket [As be goes out ] Arnold 

[Exit C -C 

Arnold HulJoa! [He comes m ] Oh, Elizabeth, I’ve found 
an illustration here of a chair which is almost identical 
with mine It’s dated 1750 Look! 

Elizabeth That’s very interesting 

Arnold I want to show it to Porteous f Moving a chair 
which has been misplaced ] You know, it does exasperate 
me the way people will not leave things alone I no 
sooner put a thing m its place than somebody moves it 

Elizabeth It must be maddening for you 

Arnold It is You are the worst offender I can’t think 
why you don’t take the pride that I do in the house 
After all, it’s one of the show places in the county 

Elizabeth I’m afraid you find me very unsatisfactory 

Arnold [Good-humouredly ] I don’t know about that But 
my two subjects are politics and decoration I should be 
a perfect fool if I didn’t see that you don’t care two 
straws about either 

Elizabeth We haven’t very much in common, Arnold, 
have wc? 

Arnold I don’t think you can blame me for that. 

Elizabeth I don’t I blame you for nothing I have no 
fault to find with you 

Arnold [Surprised at her significant tone] Good gracious 
me, what’s the meaning of all this? 

Elizabeth Well, I don’t think there’s any object in beating 
about the bush I want you to let me go 

Arnold Go where** 

Elizabeth Away For always 

Arnold My dear child, what are you talking about? 



ACT II 


56 THE CIRCLE 

Elizabeth I want to be free 
Arnold \Amtmd rather than disconcerted] Don’t be 

ridiculous, darling I daresay you’re run down and want 
a change I’ll take you over to Paris for a fortnight if you 
like 

Elizabeth I shouldn’t have spoken to you if I hadn’t quite 
made up my mind We’ve been married for three years 
and I don’t think it’s been a great success I’m frankly 
bored by the life you want me to lead 
Arnold Well, if you’ll allow me to say so, the fault is 
yours We lead a very distinguished, useful life We 
know a lot of extremely nice people 
Elizabeth I’m quite willing to allow that the fault is mine 
But how does that make it any better^ I’m only twenty- 
five If I’ve made a mistake I have time to correct it 
Arnold I can’t bring myself to take you very seriously 
Elizabeth You see, I don’t love you 
Arnold Well, I’m awfully sorry But you weren’t obliged 
to marry me You’ve made your bed and I’m afraid you 
must lie on it 

Elizabeth That’s one of the falsest proverbs in the 
English language Why should you he on the bed you’ve 
made if you don’t want to^ There’s always the floor 
Arnold For goodness’ sake don’t be funny, Elizabeth 
Elizabeth I’ve quite made up my mind to leave you, 
Arnold 

Arnold Come, come, Elizabeth, you must be sensible 
You haven’t any reason to leave me 
Elizabeth* Why should you wish to keep a woman tied 
to you who wants to be free^ 

Arnold I happen to be in love with you* 

Elizabeth You might have said that before 
Arnold I thought you’d take it for granted You can’t 
expect a man to go on making love to his wife after three 



ACT XI 


THE CIRCLE 


57 


years I’m very busy Fm awfully keen on politics and 
I’ve worked like a dog to make this house a thing of 
beauty After all, a man marries to have a home, but also 
because he doesn’t want to be bothered with sex and all 
that sort of thing I fell in love with you the first time I 
saw you and I’ve been in love ever since 

Elizabeth I’m sorry, but if you’re not in love with a man 
his love doesn’t mean very much to you 

Arnold It’s so ungrateful I’ve done everything in the 
world for you 

Elizabeth You’ve been very kind to me But you’ve 
asked me to lead a life I don’t like and that I’m not suited 
for I’m awfully sorry to cause you pain, but now you 
must let me go 

Arnold Nonsense! I’m a good deal older than you are and 
I think I have a little more sense In your interest as 
well as in mine I’m not going to do anything of the sort 

Elizabeth [With a smile ] How can you prevent me? You 
can’t keep me under lock and key 

Arnold Please don’t talk to me as if I were a foolish child 
You’re my wife and you’re going to remain my wife 

Elizabeth What sort of a life do you think we should 
lead? Do you think there’d be any more happiness for 
you than for me? 

Arnold But what is it precisely that you suggest? 

Elizabeth Well, I want you to let me divorce you 

Arnold [. Astounded ] Me? Thank you very much Are 
you under the impression I’m going to sacrifice my 
career for a whim of yours? 

Elizabeth How will it do that? 

Arnold My seat’s wobbly enough as it is Do you think 
I’d be able to hold it if I were in a divorce case? Even if 
it were a put-up job, as most divorces are nowadays, it 
would damn me. 



1CTII 


58 THE CIRCLE 

Elizabeth It’s rather hard on a woman to be divorced 
Arnold [With sudden suspicion ] What do you mean by 
that? Are you in love with someone* 

Elizabeth Yes 
Arnold Who^ 

Elizabeth Teddie Luton 

[He is astonished for a moment, then hursts into a laugh 
Arnold My poor child, how can you be so ridiculous^ 
Why, he hasn’t a bob He’s a perfectly commonplace 
young man It’s so absurd I can’t even be angry with 
you 

Elizabeth I’ve fallen desperately in love with him, 
Arnold 

Arnold Well, you’d better fall desperately out 
Elizabeth He wants to marry me 
Arnold I daresay he does He can go to hell 
Elizabeth It’s no good talking like that 
Arnold Is he your lover* 

Elizabeth No, certainly not 

Arnold It shows that he’s a mean skunk to take advantage 
of my hospitality to make love to you 
Elizabeth He’s never even kissed me 

Arnold I’d try telling that to the horse marines if I were 
you 

Elizabeth It’s because I wanted to do nothing shabby 
that I told you straight out how things were 

Arnold How long have you been thinking of this^ 

Elizabeth I’ve been m love with Teddie ever since I knew 
htm 

Arnold And you never thought of me at all, l suppose 

Elizabeth Oh, yes, I did I was miserable But I can’t help 
myself I wish I loved you, but I don’t. 



ACT II THE CIRCLE 59 

Arnold I recommend you to think very carefully before 
you do anything foolish 

Elizabeth I have thought very carefully 

Arnold By God, I don’t know why I don’t give you a 
sound hiding I’m not sure if that wouldn’t be the best 
thing to bring you to your senses 

Elizabeth Oh, Arnold, don’t take it like that 

Arnold How do you expect me to take iP You come to me 
quite calmly and say “I’ve had enough of you We’ve 
been married three years and I think I’d like to marry 
somebody else now Shall I break up your horned 
What a bore for youl Do you mind my divorcing yoiP 
It’ll smash up your career, will it ? What a pity*” Oh, no, 
my girl, I may be a fool, but I’m not a damned fool 

Elizabeth Teddie is leaving here by the first tram to- 
morrow I warn you that I mean to join him as soon as 
he can make the necessary arrangements 

Arnold Where is he^ 

Elizabeth I don’t know I suppose he’s in his room 

[Arnold goes to the door and calls 

Arnold Georgel 

[For a moment he walks up and down the room im- 
patiently Elizabeth watches him The Footman 
comes in 

Footman Yes, sir 

Arnold Tell Mr Luton to come here at once 

Ei izabeth Ask Mr* Luton if he wouldn’t mind coramg 
here for a moment 

Footman Very good, madam ^ 

[Exit Footman 

Elizabeth What are you going to say to him? 



6o 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT H 


Arnold That’s my business 

Elizabeth I wouldn’t make a scene if I were i ou 

Arnold I’m not going to make a scene 

[They wait m stknce 

Why did you insist on my mother coming here^ 

Elizabeth It seemed to me rather absurd to take up the 
attitude that I should be contaminated by her when 

Arnold [. Interrupting ] When you were proposing to do 
exactly the same thing Well, now you’ve seen her what 
do you think of her> Do you think it’s been a success^ 
Is that the sort of woman a man would like his mother to 
ht> 

Elizabeth I’ve been ashamed I’ve been so sorry It all 
seemed dreadful and horrible This morning I happened 
to notice a rose in the garden It was all overblown and 
bedraggled It looked like a painted old woman And I 
remembered that I’d looked at it a day or two ago It was 
lovely then, fresh and blooming and fragrant It may be 
hideous now, but that doesn’t take away from the beauty 
it had once That was real 

Arnold Poetry, oy GodI As if this were the moment for 
poetry! 

[Teddie comes m He has changed into a dinner jacket 

Teddie [To Elizabeth ] Did you want me? 

Arnold J sent for you 

Teddie looks from Arnold to Elizabeth He sees 
that something has happened 

When would it be convenient for you to leave this 
house? 

Teddie I was proposing to go to-morrow morning But I 
can very well go at once if you like. 

Arnold I do like. 



THE CIRCLE 


act n 


61 


Teddie Very well Is there anything else you wish to say to 
me ? 

Arnold Do you think it was a very honourable thing to 
come down here and make love to my wife^ 

Teddie No, I don’t I haven’t been very happy about it 
That’s why I wanted to go away 

Arnold Upon my word you’re cool 

Teddie I’m afraid it’s no good saying I’m sorry and that 
sort of thing You know what the situation is 

Arnold Is it true that you want to marry Elizabeth^ 

Teddie Yes I should like to marry her as soon as ever I 

ran 

Arnold Have you thought of me at alP Has it struck you 
that you’re destroying my home and breaking up my 
happiness? 

Teddie I don’t see how there could be much happiness for 
you if Elizabeth doesn’t care for you 

Arnold Let me tell you that I refuse to have my home 
broken up by a twopenny-halfpenny adventurer who 
takes advantage of a foolish woman I refuse to allow 
myself to be divorced I can’t prevent my wife from 
going off with you if she’s determined to make a damned 
fool of herself, but this I tell you nothing will induce me 
to divorce her 

Elizabeth Arnold, that would be monstrous* 

Teddie We could force you 

Arnold How^ 

Teddie If we went away together openly you’d have to 
bring an action 

Arnold Twenty-four hours after you leave this house I 
shall go down to Brighton with a chorus-girl And 
neither you nor I will be able to get a divorce We’ve 



6z 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT n 


had enough divorces in our famil7 And now get out, 
get out, get out! 

[Teddie looks uncertainly at Elizabfth 

Elizabeth {With a little smile ] Don’t bother about me I 
shall be all right 
Arnold Get out! Get out! 

END OF THE SECOND ACT 



THE THIRD ACT 


I he Scene ts the same 

It is the night of the same day as that on which takes place the 
action of the second Act 

Champion-Cheney and Arnold, both in dinner jackets , are 
discovered Ch \mpion-Cheney is seated Arnold walks 
restlessly up and down the room 

C -C I think, if you’ll follow my advice to the letter, you’ll 
probably work the tnck 

Arnold I don’t like it, you know It’s against all my 
principles 

C ~C My dear Arnold, we all hope that you have before 
you a distinguished political career f^Tou can’t learn too 
soon that the most useful thing about a principle is that it 
can always be sacrificed to expediency J 

Arnold But supposing it doesn’t come ofP Women are 
incalculable 

C -C Nonsense! Men are romantic A woman will always 
sacrifice herself if you give her the opportunity It is her 
favourite form of self-indulgence 

Arnold I never know whether you’re a humorist or a 
cyme, father 

C -C I’m neither, my dear boy. I’m merely a very truthful 
man But people are so unused to the truth that they’re 
apt to mistake it for a joke or a sneer 

Arnold [. Irritably ] It seems so unfair that this should 
happen to me 

C -C Keep your head, my boy, and do what I tell you 

[Lady Kitty and Elizabeth come in Lady Kitty u 
in a gorgeous evening gown* 

63 



ACT III 


64 THE CIRCLE 

Elizabeth Where is Lord Porteous^ 5 
C -C He’s on the terrace He’s smoking a cigar [Going to 
window ] Hughie! 

[Porteous comes tn 

Porteous [With a grunt ] Yes^ Where’s Mrs Shenstone^ 
Elizabeth Oh, she had a headache She’s gone to bed 

[When Porteous comes tn Lady Kitty with a very 
haughty air purses her lips and takes up an illustrated 
paper Porteous gives her an irritated look , takes 
another illustrated paper and sits himself down at the 
other end of the room They are not on speaking terms 
C ~C Arnold and I have just been down to my cottage 
Elizabeth I wondered where you’d gone 
C-C I came across an old photograph album this afternoon 
I meant to bring it along before dinner, but I forgot, so 
we went and fetched it 

Elizabeth Oh, do let me see it I love old photographs 

[He gives her the album , and she , sitting down* puts it on her 
knees and begins to turn over the pages He stands over 
her Lady Kitty and Porteous take surreptitious 
glances at one another 

C-C I thought it might amuse you to see what pretty 
women looked like five-and-thirty years ago That was 
the day of beautiful women. 

Elizabeth Do you think they were more beautiful then 
than they are now^ 

C -C Ob, much Now you see lots of pretty little things, 
but very few beautiful women 
Elizabeth Aren’t their clothes funny? 

C-C [Pointing to aphotograph] That’s Mrs Langtry 
Elizabeth She has a lovely nose 
C-C She was the most wonderful thing you ever saw 
Dowagers used to jump on chairs in order to get a good 



ACT m 


THE CIRCLE 


*5 

look at her when she came into a drawing-room I was 
tiding with her once, and we had to have the gates of the 
livery stable closed when she was getting on her horse 
because the crowd was so great 

Elizabeth And who’s thap 

C -C Lady Lonsdale That’s Lady Dudley* 

Elizabeth This is an actress, isn’t it^ 

C -C It is, indeed Ellen Terry By George, how I loved 
that woman* 

Elizabeth [With a smle ] Dear Ellen Terry! 

C -C That’s Bwabs I never saw a smarter man in my life 
And Oliver Montagu Henry Manners with his eye- 
glass 

Elizabeth Nice-looking, isn’t he^ Andthis^ 

C -C That’s Mary Anderson I wish you could have seen 
her in A Winter’s Tale Her beauty just took your 
breath away And look! There’s Lady Randolph 
Bernal Osborne — the wittiest man I ever knew 

Elizabeth I think it’s too sweet I love their absurd 
bustles and those tight sleeves 

C-C What figures they had! In those days a woman 
wasn’t supposed to be as thin as a rad and as flat as a 
pancake 

Elizabeth Oh, but aren’t they laced in? How could they 
bear iP 

C -C They didn’t play golf then, and nonsense like that, 
you know They hunted, in a tall hat and a long black 
habit, and they were very gracious and charitable to 
the poor in the village* 

Elizabeth Did the poor like it* 

C -C They had a very thin time if they didn’t When they 
were m London they drove in the Park every afternoon, 
and they went to ten-course dinners, where they never 



66 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT m 


met anybody they didn't know And they had their 
box at the opera when Patti was singing or Madame 
Albani 

Elizabeth Oh, what a lovely little thing! Who on earth 
is that 5 
C-C That? 

Elizabeth She looks so fragile, like a piece of exquisite 
china, with all those furs on and her face up against her 
muff, and the snow falling 

C -C Yes, there was quite a rage at that time for being 
taken in an artificial snowstorm 

Elizabeth What a sweet smile, so roguish and frank, and 
debonair! Oh, I wish I looked like that Do tell me 
who it is 

C -C Don't you know 5 

Elizabeth No 

C -C Why— it's Kitty 

Elizabeth Lady Kittyl [To Lady Kitty ] Oh, my dear, 
do look It's too ravishing [She takes the album oier to 
her impulsively ] Why didn’t you tell me you looked like 
that 5 Everybody must have been in love with you 
[Lady Kitty takes the album and looks at it Then 
she lets it slip from her hands and covers her face 
with her hands She is crying 

[In consternation ] My dear, what's the matter 5 Oh, what 
have I done 5 I'm so sorry 

Lady Kitty Don't, don’t talk to me Leave me alone 
It's stupid of me 

[Elizabeth looks at her for a moment perplexed , then , 
turning round , slips her arm in Champion-Cheney's 
and leads him out on to the terrace 

Elizabeth [As they are going , in a whisper ] Did you do 
that on purpose? 



ACT in THE CIRCLE 6j 

[Porteous gets up and goes over to Lady Kitty He 
puts bts band on ber shoulder They remam thus for 
a httle while 

Porteous I’m afraid I was very rude to you before dinner, 
Kitty 

Lady Kitty [Taking bts band which is on her shoulder ] It 
doesn’t matter I’m sure I was very exasperating 

Porteous I didn’t mean what I said, you know 

Lady Kitty Neither did I 

Porteous Of course I know that I’d never have been 
Prime Minister 

Lady Kitty How can you talk such nonsense, Hughie^ 
No one would have had a chance if you’d remained in 
politics 

Porteous I haven’t the character. 

Lady Kitty You have more character than anyone I’ve 
ever met 

Porteous Besides, I don’t know that I much wanted to 
be Prime Minister 

Lady Kitty Oh, but I should have been so proud of you 
Of course you’d have been Prime Minister 

Porteous I’d have given you India, you know I think it 
would have been a very popular appointment 

Lady Kitty I don’t care twopence about India I’d have 
been quite content with Western Australia 

Porteous My dear, you don’t think I’d have let you bury 
yourself in Western Australia^ 

Lady Kitty Or Barbadoes 

Porteous Never It sounds like a cure for flat feet I’d 
have kept you in London 

[He picks up the album and is about to look at the photo- 
graph of Lady Kitty She puts ber hand over it ; 



ACT ni 


68 THE CIRCLE 

Lady Kitty No, don't look 

[He takes her hand away 

Porteous Don't be so silly 

Lady Kitty Isn't it hateful to grow old? 

Porteous You know, you haven't changed much 

Lady Kitty [Enchanted] Oh, Hughie, how can you talk 
such nonsense^ 

Porteous Of course you're a little more mature, but that's 
all A woman's all the better for being rather mature 

Lady Kitty Do you really think that? 

Porteous Upon my soul I do 

Lady Kitty You're not saying it just to please me? 

Porteous No, no 

Lady Kitty Let me look at the photograph again 

[She takes the album and looks at the photograph com- 
placently 

The fact is, if your bones are good, age doesn't really 
matter You’ll always be beautiful 

Porteous {With a httle smile, almost as if he were talking to 
a child ] It was silly of you to cry 

Lady Kitty It hasn't made my eyelashes run, has it> 

Porteous Not a bit 

Lady Kitty It's very good stuff I use now. They don't 
stick together either 

Porteous Look here, Kitty, how much longer do you 
want to stay here^ 

Lady Kitty Oh, I'm quite ready to go whenever you like 

Porteous Ckve gets on my nerves I don't like the way 
he keeps hanging about you. 

Lady Kitty [Surprised, rather amused, and delighted ] Hughie, 
you don't mean to say you’re jealous of poor Clive? 



ACT HI THE CIRCLE 69 

Porteous Of course Fm not jealous of him, but he does 
look at you in a way that I can’t help thinking rather 
objectionable 

Lady Kitty Hughie, you may throw me downstairs like 
Amy Robsart, you may drag me about the door by the 
hair of my head, I don’t care, you’re jealous I shall 
never grow old 

Porteous Damn it all, the man was your husband. 

Lady Kitty My dear Hughie, he never had your style 
Why, the moment you come into a room everyone looks 
and says. Who the devil is that? 

Porteous What? You think that, do you? Well, I dare- 
say there’s something in what you say These damned 
Radicals can say what they like, but, by God, Kitty, 
when a man’s a gentleman — well, damn it all, you 
know what I mean 

Lady Kitty I think Clive has degenerated dreadfully since 
we left him 

Porteous What do you say to making a bee line for Italy 
and going to San Michele? 

Lady Kitty Oh, Hughie! It’s years since we were there 

Porteous Wouldn’t you like to see it again — just once 
more? 

Lady Kitty Do you remember the first time we went? 
It was the most heavenly place I’d ever seen We’d only 
left England a month, and I said I’d like to spend all 
my life there 

Porteous Of course, I remember And in a fortnight it 
was yours, lock, stockandJ?atreL 

Lady Kitty We were very happy there, Hughie. 

Porteous Let’s go back once more 

Lady Kitty I daren’t It must be all peopled with the 
ghosts of our past One should never go again to a 



7 <> 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT III 


place where one has been happy It would break my 
heart 

Porteous Do you remember how we used to sit on the 
terrace of the old castle and look at the Adriatic^ We 
might have been the only people in the world, you and 
I, Kitty 

Lady Kitty [Tragically ] And we thought our love would 
last for ever 

[Enter Champion-Cheney 

Porteous Is there any chance of bridge this evening^ 

C -C I don’t think we can make up a four 

Porteous What a nuisance that boy went away like that! 

He wasn’t a bad player 
C -C Teddie Lutom 5 

Lady Kitty I think it was very funny his going without 
saying good-bye to anyone 

C -C The young men of the present day are very casual 
Porteous I thought there was no tram in the evening 
C -C There isn’t The last tram leaves at 5 45 
Porteous How did he go then? 

C -C He went 

Porteous Damned selfish I call it 

Lady Kitty [Intrigued] Why did he go, Ckve? 

[Champion-Cheney looks at her for a moment 
reflectively 

C -C I have something very grave to say to you Elizabeth 
wants to leave Arnold 

Lady Kitty Clive! What on earth for> 

C-C She’s in love with Teddie Luton That’s why he 
went The men of my family are really very unfortunate. 
Porteous Does she want to run away with him 
Lady Kitty [ With consternation ] My dear, what’s to be done? 



ACT III 


THE CIRCLE 


7 * 


C C I thank you can do a great deal 
Lady Kitty P What? 

C C Tell her, tell her what it means 

[He looks at her fixedly She stares at him 
Lady Kitiy Oh, no, no! 

C -C She’s a child Not for Arnold’s sake For her sake 
You must 

Lady Kitty You don’t know what you’re ashing 
C-C Yes, Ido 

Lady Kitty Hugixte, what shall I do^ 

Porteous Do what you like I shall never blame you for 
anything 

[The Footman comes in with a letter on a saher He 
hesitates on seeing that Elizabeth is not m the 
room 

C -C What is iP 

Footman I was looking for Mrs Champion-Cheney, sir 
C -C She’s not here Is that a letteP 
Footman Yes, sir It’s just been sent up from The Cham- 
pion Arms 

C -C Leave it I’ll give it to Mrs Cheney 
Footman Very good* sir 

[He brings the tray to Clive, who takes the letter The 
Footman goes out 

Porteols Is The Champion Arms the local pub^ 

C -C [Looking at the letter ] It’s by way of being a hotel, 
but I never heard of anyone staying there 

Lady Kitty If there was no tram I suppose he had to go 
there 

C -C Great minds I wonder what he has to write about 
[He goes to the door leading on to the garden ] Elizabeth 

Elizabeth [ Outside ] Yes 



ACT III 


7 Z THE CIRCLE 

C ~C Here’s a note for you 

{There ts stience They watt for Elizabeth to come 
She enters 

Elizabeth It’s lovely in the garden to-night 

C -C They’ve just sent this up from The Champion Arms 

Elizabeth Thank you 

[ Without embarrassment she opens the letter They 
watch her while she reads it It covers three pages 
She puts tt away tn her bag 

l ady Kitty Hughie, I wish you’d fetch me a cloak I’d 
like to take a little stroll in the garden, but after thirty 
years in Italy I find these English summers rather chilly 
[Without a word Porteous goes out Elizabeth ts r 
lost tn thought 

I want to talk to Elizabeth, Clive 

C -C I’ll leave you 

[He goes out 

Lady Kitty What does he say^ 

Elizabeth Who p 

Lady Kitty Mr Luton 

Elizabeth [Gives a little start Then she looks at Lady 
Kitty ] They’ve told you? 

Lady Kitty Yes And now they have I think I knew it 
all along 

Elizabeth I don’t expect you to have much sympathy for 
me Arnold is your son 

Lady Kitty So pitifully little 

Elizabeth I’m not suited for this sort of existence Arnold 
wants me to take what he calls my place in Society 
Oh, I get so bored with those parties in London All 
those middle-aged painted women, in beautiful clothes, 
lolloping round ball-rooms with rather old young men 
And the endless luncheons where they gossip about 
so-and-so’s love affairs 


* 



ACT III THE CIRCLE 73 

Lady Kitty Ate you very much in love with Mr Luton* 

Elizabeth I love him with all my heart 

Lady Kitty And he* 

Elizabeth He’s never cared for anyone but me He never 
will 

Lady Kitty Will Arnold let you divorce him* 

Elizabeth No, he won’t hear of it He refuses even tc 
divorce me 

Lady Kitty Why* 

Elizabeth He thinks a scandal will revive all the old 
gossip 

Lady Kitty Oh, my poor child 

Elizabeth It can’t be helped I’m quite willing to accept 
the consequences 

Lady Kitty You don’t know what it is to have a man 
tied to you only by his honour When married people 
don’t get on they can separate, but if they’re not married 
it’s impossible It’s a tie that only death can sever 

Elizabeth If Teddie stopped car mg for me I shouldn’t 
want him to stay with me for five minutes 

Lady Kitty One says that when one’s sure of a man’s love, 
but when one isn’t any more — oh, it’s so different In 
those circumstances one’s got to keep a man’s love 
It’s the only thing one has 

Elizabeth I’m a human being I can stand on my own feet 

Lady Kitty Have you any money of your own* 

Elizabeth None 

Lady Kitty Then how can you stand on your own feet* 
You think I’m a silly, frivolous woman, but I’ve learnt 
something in a bi tter school They can make what laws 
| they like, they can give us the suffrage, but when you 
1 come down to bedrock it’s the man who pays the piper 
i who calls the tune Woman will only be the equal of 


o 



74 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT III 


man when she earns her living in the same way that he 
does 

Elizabeth [Smiling ] It sounds rather funny to hear you 
talk like that 

Lady Kitty A cook who marries a butler can snap her 
fingers in his face because she can earn just as much as 
TSe can But a woman in your position and a woman in 
mine will always be dependent on the men who keep 
them 

Elizabeth I don’t want luxury You don’t know how sick 
I am of all this beautiful furniture These over-decorated 
houses are like a prison in which I can’t breathe When 
I drive about in a Callot frock and a Rolls-Royce I envy 
the shop-girl in a coat and skirt whom I see jumping 
on the tailboard of a bus 

Lady Kitty You mean that if need be you could earn your 
own living? 

Elizabeth Yes 

Lady Kitty What could you be? A nurse or a typist 
It’s nonsense Luxury saps a woman’s nerve And when 
she’s known it once it becomes a necessity 

Elizabeth That depends on the woman 

Lady Kitty When we’re young we think we’re different 
from everyone else, but when we grow a little older we 
discover we’re all very much of a muchness 

Elizabeth You’re very kind to take so much trouble 
about me 

Lady Kitty It breaks my heart to think that you’re going 
to make the same pitiful mistake that I made 

Elizabeth Oh, don’t say it was that, don’t, don’t 

Lady Kitty Look at me, Elizabeth, and look at Hughie 
Do you think it’s been a success* If I had my time over 
igain do you think I’d do it again? Do you think he 
vould? 



ACT m THE CIRCLE 75 

Elizabeth You see, you don’t know how much I love 
Teddie 

Lady Kitty And do you think I didn’t love Hughie 5 Do 
you think he didn’t love me> 

Elizabeth I’m sure he did 

Lady Kitty Oh, of course in the beginning it was heavenly 
We felt so brave and adventurous and we were so much 
in love The first two years were wonderful People cut 
me, vou know, but I didn’t mind I thought love was 
everything It is a little uncomfortable when you come 
upon an old friend and go towards her eagerly, so glad 
to see her, and are met with an icy stare 

Elizabeth Do you think friends like that are worth 
having^ 

Lady Kitty Perhaps they’re not very sure of themselves 
Perhaps they’re honestly shocked It’s a test one had 
better not put one’s friends to if one can help it It’s 
rather bitter to find how few one has 

Elizabeth But one has some 

Lady Kitty Yes, they ask you to come and see them when 
they’re quite certain no one will be there who might 
object to meeting you Or else they say to you. My 
dear, you know I’m devoted to you, and I wouldn’t 
mind at all, but my girl’s growing up — I’m sure you 
understand, you won’t think it unkind of me if I don’t 
ask you to the housed 

Elizabeth [Smiling ] That doesn’t seem to me very serious 

Lady Kitty At first I thought it rather a relief, because it 
threw Hughie and me together more But you know, 
men are very funny Even when they are in love they’re 
not in love all day long They want change and 
recreation 

Elizabeth* I’m not inclined to blame them for tLat, poor 
dears 



ACT III 


76 THE CIRCLE 

Lady Kittt* Then we settled in Florence And because 
we couldn’t get the society we’d been used to, we became 
used to the society we could get Loose women and 
vicious men Snobs who liked to patronise people with 
a handle to their names Vague Italian princes who 
were glad to borrow a few francs from Hughie and 
seedy countesses who liked to drive with me in the 
Caserne And then Hughie began to hanker after his 
old life He wanted to go big game shooting, but I 
dared not let him go I was afraid he’d never come back 

Elizabeth But you knew he loved you 

Lady Kitty Oh, my dear, what a blessed institution 
marriage is — for women, and what fools they are to 
meddle with ltl The Church is so wise to take its stand 
on the inch — inc L l 

Elizabeth Solu 

Lady Kitty Bihty of marriage Believe me, it’s no joke 
when you have to rely only on yourself to keep a man 
I could never afford to grow old My dear. I’ll tell you 
a secret that I’ve never told a living soul 

Elizabeth What is that p 

Lady Kitty My hair is not naturally this colour 

Elizabeth Really 

Lady Kitty I touch it up You would never have guessed, 
would you ? 

Elizabeth Never 

Lady Kitty Nobody does My dear, it’s white, prema- 
turely of course, but white I always think it’s a symbol 
of my life Are you interested in symbolism? I think it’s 
too wonderful 

Elizabeth I don’t think I know very much about it 

Lady Kitty However tired I’ve been I’ve had to be 
brilliant and gay I’ve never let Hughie see the aching 
heart behind my smiling eyes 



ACT XXX 


THE CIRCLE 


77 


Elizabeth [Amused and touched ] You poor dear 

Lady Kitty And when I saw he was attracted by someone 
else the fear and the jealousy that seized me! You see, 
I didn’t dare make a scene as I should have done if I’d 
been married I had to pretend not to notice 

Elizabeth [Taken aback ] But do you mean to say he fell 
m love with anyone else* 

Lady Kitty Of course he did eventuallv 

Elizabeth [Hardly knowing what to say] You must have 
been very unhappy 

Lady Kitty Oh, I was, dreadfully Night after night I 
sobbed my heart out when Hughie told me he was going 
to play cards at the club and I knew he was with that 
odious woman Of course, it wasn’t as if there weren’t 
plenty of men who were only too anxious to console me 
Men have always been attracted by me, you know 

Elizabeth Oh, of course, I can quite understand it 

Lady Kitty But I had my self-respect to think of I felt 
that whatever Hughie did I would do nothing that I 
should regret 

Elizabeth You must be very glad now 

Lady Kitty Oh, yes Notwithstanding all my temptations 
I’ve been absolutely faithful to Hughie in spirit 

Elizabe th I don’t think I quite understand what you mean 

Lady Kitty Well, there was a poor Italian boy, young 
Count Castel Giovanni, who was so desperately in love 
•with me that his mother begged me not to be too cruel 
She was afraid he’d go into a consumption. What could 
I do* And then, oh, years later, there was Antonio 
Mehta He said he’d shoot himself unless I — well, you 
understand I couldn’t let the poor boy shoot himself 

Elizabeth D’you think he really would have shot hi ms el f ? 



ACT III 


78 THE CIRCLE 

Lady Kitty Oh, one never knows, you know Those 
Italians are so passionate He was really rather a lamb 
He had such beautiful eyes 

[Elizabeth looks at her for a long time and a certain 
horror seizes her of this dissolute , painted old woman 
Elizabeth [Hoarsely ] Oh, but I think that's — dreadful 

Lady Kitty Are you shocked^ One sacrifices one's life 
for love and then one finds that love doesn't last The 
| tragedy of love isn't death or separation One gets over 
fthem The tragedy of love is indifference .1 

[Arnold comes m 

Arnold Can I have a little talk with you, Elizabeth^ 
Elizabeth Of course 

Arnold Shall we go for a stroll in the garden^ 

Elizabeth If you like 

Lady Kitty No, stay here I'm going out anyway 

[Exit Lady Kitty 

Arnold I want you to listen to me for a few minutes, 
Elizabeth I was so taken aback by what you told me 
just now that I lost my head I was rather absurd and 
I beg your pardon I said things I regret 
Elizabeth Oh, don't blame yourself I'm sorry that I 
should have given you occasion to say them 
Arnold I want to ask you if you've quite made up your 
mind to go 
Elizabeth Quite. 

Arnold Just now I seem to have said all that I didn't want 
to say and nothing that I did I'm stupid and tongue- 
tied I never told you how deeply I loved you 
Elizabeth. Oh, Arnold 

Arnold Please let me speak now It's so very difficult 
If I seemed absorbed in politics and the house, and so 
on, to the exclusion of my interest in you, I'm dreadfully 



ACT m THE CIRCLE 79 

sorry I suppose it was absurd of me to think you would 
take my great love for granted 

Elizabeth But, Arnold, I’m not reproaching you 

Arnold Fm reproaching myself I’ve been tactless and 
neglectful But I do ask you to believe that it hasn’t 
been because I didn’t love you Can you forgive me? 

Elizabeth I don’t think that there’s anything to forgive 

Arnold It wasn’t till to-day when you talked of leaving me 
that I realised how desperately in love with you I was 

Elizabeth After three years? 

Arnold I’m so proud of you I admire you so much 
When I see jou at a party, so fresh and lovely, and 
everybody wondering at you, I have a sort of little thrill 
because you’re mine, and afterwards I shall take you 
home 

Elizabeth Oh, Arnold, you’re exaggerating 

Arnold I can’t imagine this house without you Life seems 
on a sudden all empty and meaningless Oh, Elizabeth, 
don’t you love me at all? 

Elizabeth It’s much better to be honest No 

Arnold Doesn’t my love mean anything to you? 

Elizabeth I’m very grateful to you I’m sorry to cause 
you pain What would be the good of my staying with 
you when I should be wretched all the time? 

Arnold Do you love that man as much as all that? Does 
my unhappiness mean nothing to you? 

Elizabeth Of course it does It breaks my heart You 
see, I never knew I meant so much to you I’m so 
touched And Fm so sorry, Arnold, really sorry But 
I can’t help myself 

Arnold Poor child, it’s cruel of me to torture you. 

Elizabeth Oh, Arnold, believe me, I have tried to make 
the best of it I’ve tried to love you, but I can’t. After 



8o 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT III 


all, one either loves or one doesn’t Trying is no help 
And now I’m at the end of my tether I can’t help the 
consequences — I must do what my whole self yearns for 
Arnold My poor child, I’m so afraid you’ll be unhappy 
I’m so afraid you’ll regret 

Elizabeth You must leave me to my fate I hope you’ll 
forget me and all the unhappiness I’ve caused you 
Arnold [There ts a pause Arnold walks up and down the 
room reflectively He stops and faces her ] If you love this 
man and want to go to him i’ll do nothing to prevent 
you My only wish is to do what is best for you 
Elizabeth Arnold, that’s awfully kind of you If I’m 
treating you badly at least I want you to know that I’m 
grateful for all your kindness to me 
Arnold But there’s one favour I should like you to do 
me Will you^ 

Elizabeth Oh, Arnold, of course I’ll do anything I can 
Arnold Teddie hasn’t very much money You’ve been 
used to a certain amount of luxury, and I can’t bear to 
think that you should do without anything you’ve had 
It would kill me to think that you were suffering any 
hardship or privation 

Elizabeth Oh, but Teddie can earn enough for our needs. 
After all, we don’t want much money 
Arnold I’m afraid my mother’s life hasn’t been very easy, 
but it’s obvious that the only thing that’s made it possible 
is that Porteous was nch I want you to let me make 
you an allowance of two thousand a year 
Elizabeth Oh, no, I couldn’t think of it It’s absurd 
Arnold I beg you to accept it You don’t know what a 
difference it will make 

Elizabeth It’s awfully kind of you, Arnold It humiliates 
me to speak about it Nothing would induce me to take 
a penny from you. 



ACT in 


THE CIRCLE 


81 


Arnold Well, you can’t prevent me from opening an 
account at my bank in your name The money shall be 
paid in every quarter whether you touch it or not, and 
if you happen to want it, it will be there waiting for you 
Elizabeth You overwhelm me, Arnold There’s only 
one thing I want you to do for me I should be very 
grateful if you would divorce me as soon as you possibly 
can 

Arnold Ho, I won’t do that But I’ll give you cause to 
divorce me 
Elizabeth You! 

Arnold Yes But of course you’ll have to be very careful 
for a bit I’ll put it through as quickly as possible, but 
I’m afraid you can’t hope to be free for over six months 
Elizabeth But, Arnold, your seat and your political 
career! 

Arnold Oh, well, my father gave up his seat under similar 
circumstances He’s got along very comfortably without 
politics 

Elizabeth But they’re your whole life 
Arnold After all one can’t have it both ways You can’t 
serve God and Mammon If you want to do the decent 
thin g you have to be prepared to suffer for it 
Elizabeth But I don’t want you to suffer for it 
Arnold At first I rather hesitated at the scandal But I 
daresay that was only weakness on my part In the 
circumstances I should have liked to keep out of the 
Divorce Court if I could 

Elizabeth Arnold, you’re making me absolutely miserable 
Arnold What you said before dinner was quite right It’s 
nothing for a man, but it makes so much difference to 
a woman Naturally I must think of you first 
Elizabeth That’s absurd. It’s out of the question. What- 
ever there’s to pay I must pay it 



82 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT IH 


Arnold It’s not very much I’m asking for, Elizabeth 
Elizabeth I’m taking everything from you 
Arnold It’s the only condition I make My mind is abso- 
lutely made up I will never divorce you, but I will 
enable you to divorce me 

Elizabeth Oh, Arnold, it’s cruel to be so generous 
Arnold It’s not generous at all It’s the only way I have 
of showing you how deep and passionate and sincere 
my love is for you 

[There is a Silence He bolds out bis hard 
Good-night I have a great deal of work to do before 
I go to bed 

Elizabeth Good-night 
Arnold Do you mind if I kiss you^ 

Elizabeth [With agony ] Oh, Arnold! 

[He gravely kisses her on the forehead and then goes out 
Elizabeth stands lost m thought She is shattered 
Lady Kitty and Porteous com in Lady Kitty 
wears a cloak 

Lady Kitty You’re alone, Elizabeth^ 

Elizabeth That note you asked me about. Lady Kitty, 
from Ted die 
Lady Kitty Yes^ 

Elizabeth He wanted to have a talk with me before he 
went away He’s waiting for me in the summer house 
by the tennis court Would Lord Porteous mind going 
down and asking him to come here^ 

Porteous Certainly Certainly. 

Elizabeth Forgive me for troubling you But it’s very 
important., 

Porteous No trouble at alL 

[He goes out 

Lady Kitty Hughie and I will leave you alone* 



THE CIRCLE 


act m 


83 


Elizabeth But I don’t want to be left alone I want you 
to stay 

Lady Kitty What are you going to say to him? 

Elizabeth [Desperately] Please don’t ask me questions 
I’m so frightfully unhappy 

Lady Kitty My poor child 

Elizabeth Oh, isn’t life rotten? Why can’t one be happy 
without making other people unhappy? 

Lady Kitty I wish I knew how to help you I’m simply 
devoted to you [She bunts about tn her mmd for something 
to door say] Would you like my lip-stick? 

Elizabeth [ Smiling through her tears] Thanks I never 
use one 

Lady Kitty Oh, but just try It’s such a comfort when 
you’re in trouble 

[Enter Porteous and Teddie 

Porteous I brought him He said he’d be damned if he’d 
come 

Lady Kitty When a lady sent for him? Are these the 
manners of the young men of to-day? 

Teddie When you’ve been solemnly kicked out of a house 
once I think it seems rather pushing to come back again 
as though nothing had happened 

Elizabeth Teddie, I want you to be senous 

Teddie Darling, I had such a rotten dinner at that pub If 
you ask me to be senous on the top of that I shall cry 

Elizabeth Don’t be idiotic, Teddie [Her voire faltering ] 
I’m so utterly wretched 

[He looks at her for a moment gravely 

Teddie What is it? 

Elizabeth I can’t come away with you, Teddie. 

Teddie Why not? 



ACT in 


84 THE CIRCLE 

Elizabeth* [Looking away in embarrassment ] I don’t love 
yon enough 

Tebdie Fiddle! 

Elizabeth [With a flash of anger ] Don’t say Fiddle to 
me 

Teddie I shall say exactly what I like to you 

Elizabeth I won’t be bullied 

Teddie Now look here, Elizabeth, you know perfectly 
well that I’m in love with you, and I know perfectly well 
that you’re in love with me So what are you talking 
nonsense for? 

Elizabeth [Her voice breaking ] I can’t say it if you’re cross 
with me 

Teddie [Smiling very tenderly ] I’m not cross with you, 
silly 

Elizabeth It’s harder still when you’re being rather an 
owl 

Teddie [With a chuckle ] Am I mistaken in thinking you’re 
not very easy to please? 

Elizabeth Oh, it’s monstrous I was all wrought up and 
ready to do anything, and now you’ve thoroughly put 
me out I feel like a great big fat balloon that some one 
has put a long pin into [ With a sudden look at him ] Have 
you done it on purpose? 

Teddie Upon my soul I don’t know what you’re talking 
about 

Elizabeth I wonder it you’re really much cleverer than I 
think you are 

Teddie. [Taking her bands and making her sit down ] Now 
tell me exactly what you want to say By the way, do 
you want lady Kitty and Lord Porteous to be here? 
Elizabeth Yes 

Lady Kitty Elizabeth asked us to stay 



ACT m THE CIRCLE Bj 

Teddie Oh, I don’t mind, bless you I only thought you 
might Jeel rather in the way 

Lady Kitty [Frigidly] A gentlewoman never feels in the 
way, Mr Luton 

Teddie Won’t you call me Teddie^ Everybody does, you 
know 

[Lady Kitty tries to give him a withering Iook y hut she 
fimds it very difficult to prevent herself from smiling 
Teddie strokes Elizabeth’s hands She draws 
them away 

Eiizabeth No, don’t do that Teddie, it wasn’t true when 
I said I didn’t love you Of course I love you But 
Arnold loves me, too. I didn’t know how much 

Teddie What has he been saying to you? 

Elizabeth He’s been very good to me, and so land 
I didn’t know he could be so kind. He offered to let 
me divorce him 

Teddie That’s very decent of him. 

Elizabeth But don’t you see, it ties my hands How can 
I accept such a sacrifice^ I should never forgive myself 
if I profited by his generosity 

Teddie If another man and I were devilish hungry and 
there was only one mutton chop between us, and he 
said. You eat it, I wouldn’t waste a lot of time 
arguing I’d wolf it before he changed his mind 

Elizabeth Don’t talk like that. It maddens me I’m trying 
to do the nght thing 

Teddie You’re not in love with Arnold, you’re in love 
with me It’s idiotic to sacrifice your life for a slushy 
s entiment 

Elizabeth After all, I dm marry him 

Teddie Well, you made a mistake A marriage without 
love is no marriage at all 



ACT III 


86 THE CIRCLE 

Elizabeth I made the mistake Why should he suffer 
for lt^ If anyone has to suffer it’s only right that I 
should 

Teddie What sort of a life do you think it would be with 
him** When two people are married it’s very difficult 
for one of them to be unhappy without making the 
other unhappy too 

Elizabeth I can’t take advantage of his generosity 

Teddee I daresay he’ll get a lot of satisfaction out of it 

Elizabeth You’re being beastly, Teddie He was simply 
wonderful I never knew he had it in him He was 
really noble 

Teddie You are talking rot, Elizabeth 

Elizabeth I wonder if you’d be capable of acting like 
that 

Teddie Acting like what^ 

Elizabeth What would you do if I were married to you 
and came and told you I loved somebody else and wanted 
to leave you^ 

Teddie You have very pretty blue eyes, Elizabeth I’d 
black first one and then the other And after that 
we’d see 

Elizabeth You damned brutel 

Teddie I’ve often thought I wasn’t quite a gentleman. 
Had it never struck you> 

[They look at one another for a while 

Elizabeth You know, you are taking an unfair advantage 
of me I feel as if I came to you quite unsuspectingly 
and when I wasn’t looking you kicked me on the shins 

Teddie Don’t you think we’d get on rather well together^ 

Porteous Elizabeth’s a fool if she don’t stick to her 
husband It’s bad enough for the man, but for the 
voman — it’s damnable, I hold no brief for Arnold, He 



ACT m THE CIRCLE $7 

plays bridge like a foot Saving your presence, Kitty, 
I think he’s a png 

Lady Kitty Poor dear, his father was at his age I daresay 
he’ll grow out of it 

Porteous But you stick to him, Elizabeth, stick to him 
Man is a gregarious animal We’re members of a herd 
If we break the herd’s laws we suffer for it And we suffer 
damnably 

Lady Kitty Oh, Elizabeth, my dear child, don’t go It’s 
not worth it It’s not worth it I tell you that, and I’ve 
sacrificed everything to love 

[A pause 

Elizabeth I’m afraid 

Teddie [In a whisper ] Elizabeth 

Elizabeth I can’t face it It’s asking too much of me 
Let’s say good-bye to one another, Teddie It’s the only 
thing to do And have pity on me I’m giving up all 
my hope of happiness 

[He goes up to her and looks into her eyes 

Teddie But I wasn’t offering you happiness I don’t think 
my sort of love tends to happiness I’m jealous I’m 
not a very easy man to get on with I’m often out of 
temper and irritable* I should be fed to the teeth with 
you sometimes, and so would you be with me I daresay 
we’d fight like cat and dog, and sometimes we’d hate 
each other Often you’d be wretched and bored stiff 
and lonely, and often you’d be frightfully homesick, and 
then you’d regret all you’d lost Stupid women would 
be rude to you because we’d run away together And 
some of them would cut you I don’t offer you peace 
and quietness I offer you unrest and anxiety. I don’t 
offer you happiness I offer you love. 

Elizabeth [Stretching out her arms ] You hateful creature, 
I absolutely adore you 



88 THE CIRCLE ACT III 

[He throws its arms round her and kisses her passionately 
on the lips 

Lady Kitty Of course the moment he said he’d give her 
a black eye I knew it was finished 

Porteous [Good-humouredly ] You are a fool, Kitty 

Lady Kitty I know I am, but I can’t help it 

Teddie Let’s make a bolt for it now 

Elizabeth Shall we^ 

Teddie This minute, 

Porteous You’re damned fools, both of you, damned 
fools If you like you can have my car 

Teddie That’s awfully land of you As a matter of fact, 
I got it out of the garage It’s just along the drive 

Porteous [Indignantly ] How do you mean, you got it out 
of the garage^ 

Teddie Well, I thought there’d be a lot of bother, and it 
seemed to me the best thing would be for Elizabeth and 
me not to stand upon the order of our going, you know 
Do it now An excellent motto for a business man 

Porteous Do you mean to say you were going to steal 
my car 

Teddie Not exactly I was only going to bolshevise it, 
so to speak 

Porteous I’m speechless I’m absolutely speechless 

Teddie Hang it all, I couldn’t carry Elizabeth all the 
way to London She’s so damned plump 

Elizabeth You dirty dog! 

Porteous [Spluttering] Well, well, well! [Helplessly ] 
I hke him, Kitty, it’s no good pretending I don’t I 
like him 

Teddie The moon’s shining, Elizabeth We’ll drive all 
through the night 



ACT III THE CIRCLE 89 

Porteous They’d better go to San Michele I’ll wire to 
have it got ready for them 

Lady Kitty That’s where we went when Hughie and I 
{Faltering ] Oh, you dear things, how I envy you 

Porteous [Mopping bis eyes ] Now don’t cry, Kitty Con- 
found you, don’t cry 

Teddie Come, darling 

Elizabeth But I can’t go like this 

Teddie Nonsense! Lady Kitty will lend you her cloak 
Won’t yoiP 

Lady Kitty [Taking it off ] You’re capable of tearing it 
off my back if I don’t 

Teddie [Putting the cloak on Elizabeth] And we’ll buy 
you a tooth-brush in London in the morning 

Lady Kitty She must write a note for Arnold, I’ll put 
it on her pincushion. 

Teddie Pincushion be blowed Come, darling We’ll drive 
through the dawn and through the sunrise 

Elizabeth [Kissing Lady Kitty and Porteous ] Good- 
bye Good-bye 

[Teddie stretches out his band and she takes it Hand 
in hand they go out into the night 

Lady Kitty Oh, Hughie, how it all comes back to me 
Will they suffer all we suffered? And have we suffered 
all in vatfp 

Porteous My dear, I don’t know that in life it matters so 
much what you do as what you are No one can learn 
by the experience of another because no circumstances 
are quite the same If we made rather a hash of things 
perhaps it was because we were rather trivial people 
You can do anything in this world if you’re prepared to 
take the consequences, and consequences depend on 
character 



9o 


THE CIRCLE 


ACT in 


[Enter Champion-Cheney, rubbmg bts bands He ts 
as pleased as Punch 

C -C Well, I think I’ve settled the hash of that young man 
Lady Kitty OP 

C -C You have to get up very early in the morning to get 
the better of your humble servant 

[There ts the sound of a car starting 
Lady Kitty What is that? 

C-C It sounds like a car I expect it’s your chauffeur 
taking one of the maids for a joy-ride 
Porteous Whose hash are you talking abouP 
C*C Mr Edward Luton’s, my dear Hughie I told Arnold 
exactly what to do and he’s done it What makes a 
prison? Why, bars and bolts Remove them and a 
prisoner won’t want to escape Clever, I flatter myself 
Porteous You were always that, Give, but at the moment 
you’re obscure 

C-C I told Arnold to go to Elizabeth and tell her she 
could have her freedom I told him to sacrifice himself 
all along the line I know what women are The moment 
every obstacle was removed to her marriage with Teddie 
Luton, half the allurement was gone 
Lady Kitty Arnold did that^ 

C -C He followed my instructions to the letter I’ve just 
seen him She’s shaken. I’m willing to bet five hundred 
pounds to a penny that she won’t bolt A downy old 
bird, eh? Downy’s the word Downy 

[He begins to laugh They laugh too. Presently they are 
all three m fits of laughter 


The End 



THE CONSTANT WIFE 


A COMEDY 
tn Three Acts 




CHARACTERS 


Constance 

John Middleton, F R C S 

Bernard Kersal 

Mrs Culver 

Marie-Louise 

Martha 

Barbara 

Mortimer Durham 
Bentley 


The action of the play takes place in John's 
house tn Harley Street . 




THE CONSTANT WIFE 

THE FIRST ACT 

Scene Constance’s drawing-room It is a room furnished 
with singularly good taste Constance has a gift for decora- 
tion and has made this room of hers both beautiful and 
comfortable 

It is afternoon 

Mrs Culver is seated alone She is an elderly ?ady with a 
pleasant face and she is dressed in walking costume The 
door is opened and Bentley the butler introduces Martha 
Culver This is her daughter and a fine young woman 

Bentley Miss Culver 

[He goes out 

Martha [With astonishment ] Mother 

Mrs Culver* [Very calmly ] Yes, darling 

Martha You’re the last person I expected to find here 
You never told me you were coming to see Constance 

Mrs Culver [< Good-humouredly ] I didn’t intend to till I 
saw in your beady eye that you meant to I thought I’d 
just as soon be here first 

Martha Bentley says she’s out. 

Mrs Culver Yes Are you going to wait? 

Martha Certainly 

Mrs Culver Then I will, too. 

Martha That’ll be very nice 

Mrs Culver Your words are cordial, but your tone is 
slightly fngid, my dear 

Martha. I don’t know what you mean by that, mother. 

91 



ACT : 


9 6 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Mrs Culver My dear, we’ve known one another a grea 
many years, haven’t we^ More than we always find n 
convenient to mention 

Martha Not at all I’m thirty-two I’m not in the leasi 
ashamed of my age Constance is thirty-six 

Mrs Culver And yet we still think it worth while to be 
a trifle disingenuous with one another Our sex takes 
a natural pleasure in dissimulation 

Martha I don’t think anyone can accuse me of not being 
frank 

Mrs Culver Franknessofcourseistheposeofthemoment 
It is often a very effective screen for one’s thoughts 

Martha I think you’re being faintly disagreeable to me, 
mother 

Mrs Culver I, on the other hand, think you’re inclined 
to be decidedly foolish 

Martha Because I want to tell Constance something she 
ought to know p 

Mrs Culver Ah, I was right then And it’s to tell her 
that you’ve broken an engagement, and left three 
wretched people to play cut-throat 

Martha It is 

Mrs Culver And may I ask why you think Constance 
ought to know^ 

Martha Why^ Why^ Why? That’s one of those questions 
that really don’t need answering 

Mrs Culver I’ve always noticed that the questions that 
really don’t need answering are the most difficult to 
answer 

Martha It isn’t at all difficult to answer She ought to 
know the truth because it’s the truth 

Mrs Culver Of course truth is an excellent thing, but 
before one tells it one should be quite sure that one does 



ACT I THE CONSTANT WIFE 97 

so for the advantage of the person who hears it rather 
than for one’s own self-satisfaction 

Martha Mother, Constance is a very unhappy person 

Mrs Culver Nonsense She eats well, sleeps well, dresses 
well, and she’s losing weight No woman can be un- 
happy in those circumstances 

Martha Of course if you won’t understand it’s no use my 
trying to make you You’re a darling, but you’re the 
most unnatural mother Your attitude simply amazes 
me 

[The door opens and Bentley ushers tn Mrs Fawcett 
Mrs Fawcett is a trim , business-like woman of 
forty 

Bentley Mrs Fawcett 

Mrs Culver Oh, Barbara, how very nice to see you 

Barbara [Going up to her and kissing her ] Bentley told me 
you were here and Constance was out What are you 
doing^ 

Mrs Culver Bickering 

Barbara What about^ 

Mrs Culver Constance 

Martha I’m glad you’ve come, Barbara • Did you 
know that John was having an affair with Mane-Louise^ 

Barbara I hate giving a straight answer to a straight 
question 

Martha I suppose everyone knows but us How long 
have you known? They say it’s been going on for 
months I can’t think how it is we’ve only just heard it 

Mrs Culver [Ironically ] It speaks very well for human 
nature that with the masses of dear friends we have it’s 
only to-day that one of them broke the news to us 

Barbara Perhaps the dear friend only heard it this 
morning 



ACT! 


98 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Martha At first I refused to believe it 
Mrs Culver Only quite, quite at first, darling You 
surrendered to the evidence with an outraged alacrity 
that took my breath away 

Martha Of course I put two and two together After the 
first shock I understood everything I’m only astonished 
that it never occurred to me before 
Barbara Are you very much upset, Mrs Culver^ 

Mrs Culver Not a bit I was brought up by a very strict 
mother to believe that men were naturally wicked I 
am seldom surprised at what they do and never upset 
Martha Mother has been simply maddening She treats 
it as though it didn’t matter a row of pins 
Mrs Culver Constance and John have been married for 
fifteen years John is a very agreeable man I’ve some- 
times wondered whether he was any more faithful to 
his wife than most husbands, but as it was really no 
concern of mine I didn’t let my mind dwell on it 
Martha Is Constance your daughter or is she not your 
daughter? 

Mrs Culver You certainly have a passion for straight 
questions, my dear The answer is yes 
Martha, And are you prepared to sit there quietly and let 
her husband grossly deceive her with her most intimate 
friend? 

Mrs Culver So long as she doesn’t know I can’t see that 
she’s any the worse Mane-Lomse is a nice little thing, 
silly of course, but that’s what men like, and if John is 
going to deceive Constance it’s much better that it 
should be with someone we all know 
Martha [To Barbara J Did you ever hear a respectable 
woman — and mother is respectable . , * 

Mrs Culver [Interrupting ] Oh, quite. 

Martha Talk like that? 



ACT I THE CONSTANT U IFE 99 

Barbara You think that something ought to be done 
about it? 

Martha I am determined that something shall be done 
about it 

Mrs Culver Well, my dear, Fm determined that there’s at 
least one thing you shan’t do and that is to tell Constance 

Barbara [A tnfle startled ] Is that what you want to do^ 

Martha Somebody ought to tell her If mother won’t I 
must 

Barbara Fm extremely fond of Constance Of course I’ve 
known what was going on for a long time and I’ve been 
dreadfully worried 

Martha John has put her into an odious position No 
man has the right to humiliate his wife as he has 
humiliated Constance He’s made her perfectly 
ridiculous 

Mrs Culver If women were ridiculous because then 
husbands are unfaithful to them, there would surely be 
a great deal more merriment in the world than there is 

Barbara [Delighted to hare a good gossip ] You know they 
were lunching together to-day^ 

Martha We hadn’t heard that But they were dining 
together the night before last 

Mrs Culver [Brightly] We know what they had to eat 
for dinner. Do you know what they had to eat for 
luncheon^ 

Martha Mother 

Mrs Culver. Well, I thought she seemed rather uppish 
about the lunch 

Martha You have no sense of decency, mother 

Mrs Culver Oh, my dear, don’t talk to me about decency 
Decency died with dear Queen Victoria. 



IDO THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT I 

Barbara [To Mrs Culver] But you can't approve of 
John having an open and flagrant intrigue with Con- 
stance's greatest friend 

Mrs Culver It may be that with advancing years m) 
arteries have hardened I am unable to attach any great 
importance to the philandermgs of men I think it’s 
their nature John is a very hard-working surgeon If 
he likes to lunch and dine with a pretty woman now 
and then I don’t think he's much to blame It must be 
very tiresome to have three meals a day with the same 
woman for seven days a week I’m a little bored mvself 
at seeing Martha opposite me at the dinner-table And 
men can’t stand boredom as well as women 

Martha I’m sure I’m very much obliged to you, mother 

Barbara [Significantly ] But they’re not only lunching and 
dining together 

Mrs Culver You fear the worst, my dear* 

Barbara [With solemnity ] I know the worst 

Mrs Culver I always think that’s such a comfort With 
closed doors and no one listening to us, so long as a 
man 1$ kind and civil to his wife do you blame him very 
much if he strays occasionally from the narrow path of 
virtue 5 

Martha Do you mean to say that you attach no importance 
to husbands and wives keeping their marriage vows 5 

Mrs Culver I think wives should 

Barbara But that’s grossly unfair Why should they any 
more than men? 

Mrs Culver Because on the whole they like it We ascribe 
a great deal of merit to ourselves because we’re faithful 
to our husbands I don’t believe we deserve it for a 
minute We’re naturally faithful creatures and we’re 
faithful because we have no particular inclination to be 
anything else* 



ACT I THE CONSTANT WIFE IOI 

Barbara I wonder 

Mrs Culver My dear, you are a widow and perfectly free 
Have you really had any great desire to do anything that 
the world might say ypu shouldn't^ 

Barbara I have my business When you work hard eight 
hours a day you don't much want to be bothered with 
love In the evening the tired business woman wants 
to go to a musical comedy or play cards She doesn't 
want to be worried with adoring males 

Martha By the way, how is your business** 

Barbara Growing by leaps and bounds As a matter of 
fact I came here to-day to ask Constance if she would 
like to come in with me 

Mrs Culver Why should she^ John earns plenty of 
money 

Barbara Well, I thought if things came to a crisis she might 
like to know that her independence was assured 

Mrs Culver Oh, you want them to come to a crisis, too^ 

Barbara No, of course I don't But, you know, they can't 
go on like this It’s a miracle that Constance hasn't 
heard yet She's bound to find out soon 

Mrs Culver I suppose it's inevitable 

Martha I hope she'll find out as quickly as possible I 
still think it's mother's duty to tell her 

Mrs Culver Which I have no intention of doing 

Martha And if mother won't I think 21 ought 

Mrs Culver Which I have no intention of permitting 

Martha He's humiliated her beyond endurance Her 
position is intolerable I have no words to express my 
opinion of Marie-Louise, and the first time I see her I 
shall tell her exactly what I th ink of her She's a horrid, 
ungrateful, mean and contemptible little cat 



102 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


ACT I 


Barbara Anyhow, I think it would be a comfort to 
Constance to know that if anything happened she has 
me to turn to 

Mrs Culver But John would make her a handsome 
allowance He’s a very generous man 

Martha [. Indignantly ] Do you think Constance would 
accept xt? 

Barbara Martha’s quite right, Mrs Culver No woman 
in those circumstances would take a penny of his 
money 

Mrs Culver That’s what she’d say But she’d take care 
that her lawyer made the best arrangement he could 
Few men know with what ingenuity we women can 
combine the disinterested gesture with a practical eye 
for the mam chance 

Barbara Aren’t you rather cynical, Mrs Culver^ 

Mrs Culver I hope not But when women are alone 
together I don’t see why they shouldn’t tell the truth 
now and then It’s a rest from the weary round of 
pretending to be something that we quite well know 
we’re not 

Martha [Stiffly ] I’m not aware that I’ve ever pretended 
to be anything I wasn’t 

Mrs Culver I dare say not, my dear But I’ve always 
thought you were a little stupid You take after your 
poor father Constance and I have the brains of the 
family 

[Constance comes into the room She u a handsome 
woman of six and thirty She has been out and wears 
a bat 

Barbara [Eagerly ] Constance 

Constance I’m so sorry I wasn’t m How nice of you all 
to wait How are you, mother darling^ 

[She fosses them one after another 



ACT I THE CONSTANT WIFE XO3 

Martha What have you been doing all day, Constance^ 
Constance Oh, I’ve been shopping with Mane-Louise 
She’s just coming up 
Barbara {With dismay ] Is she here^ 

Constance Yes She’s telephoning 
Martha [Ironically] You and Mane-Louise ate quite 
inseparable 

Constance I like her She amuses me 
Martha Were you lunching together* 

Constance No, she was lunching with a beau 
Martha [With a glance at Mrs Culver] Oh, really 
[Breezily ] John always comes home to luncheon, 
doesn’t he? 

Constance [With great frankness] When he doesn’t have 
to be at the hospital too early 
Martha Was he lunching with you to-day^ 

Constance No He was engaged 
Martha Where^ 

Constance Good heavens, I don’t know When you’ve 
been married as long as I have you never ask your 
husband where he’s going 
Martha I don’t know why not 

Constance [Smiling ] Because he might take it into his 
head to ask you 

Mrs Culver And also because if you’re a wise woman you 
have confidence in your husband 
Constance John has never given me a moment’s uneasi- 
ness yet 

Martha You’re lucky 

Constance [With her tongue in her cheek ] Or wise 

[Marie-Louise appears She is a very pretty httle 
thing, beautifully dressed , of the clinging , large-eyed 
type 



104 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT I 

Marie-Louise Oh, I didn’t know there was a party 

Mrs Culver Martha and I are just going 

Constance You know my mother, Mane-Louise 

Marie-Louise Of course I do 

Constance She’s a very nice mother 

Mrs Culver With her head screwed on the nght way and 
very active for her years 

[Marie-Louise fosses Barbara and Martha 

Marie-Louise How do you do 

Martha [Looking at her dress ] That’s new, isn’t it, Mane- 
Louise^ * 

Marie-Louise Yes, I’ve never had it on before 

Martha Oh, did you put it on because you were lunching 
with a beau^ 

Marie-Louise What makes you think I was lunching with 
a beau^ 

Martha Constance told me so 

Constance It was only a guess on my part [To Marie- 
Louise ] When we met I noticed that your eyes were 
shining and you had that pleased, young look a woman 
always gets when some one has been telling her she’s 
the most adorable thing in the world, 

Martha Tell us who it was, Mane-Louise 

Constance Do nothing of the kind, Mane-Louise Keep 
it a secret and give us something to gossip about 

Barbara How is your husband, dear* 

Marie-Louise, Oh, he’s very well I’ve just been tele- 
phoning to him. 

Barbara I never saw anyone adore his wife so obviously 
as he adores you 

Marie-Louise: Yes, he’s sweet, isn’t he? 



ACT I THE CONSTANT WIFE JOI 

Barbara But doesn’t it make you a little nervous some- 
times^ It must be nerve-racking to be obliged to live 
up to such profound devotion It would be a dreadful 
shock if he ever found out that you were not everything 
he thought you 

Constance [Charmingly ] But Mane-Louise is everything 
he thinks her 

Marie-Louise And even if I weren’t I think it would 
require more than the evidence of his eyes to persuade 
him 

Constance Listen There’s John [She goes to the door and 
calls ] John! John* 

John [Downstairs ] Hulloa 

Constance Are you coming up ? Marie-Louise is here 

Jons Yes, I’m just coming 

Constance He’s been operating all the afternoon. I expect 
he’s tired out 

Martha [With a look at Marie-Louise] I dare say he 
only had a sandwich for luncheon 

(John comes tn He ts a tally spare man of about forty 

John Good Lord, I never saw such a lot of people How 
is my mother-in-law^ 

Mrs Culver Mother-in-lawish 

John [Kissing her — to Barbara ] You know, I only married 
Constance because her mother wouldn’t have me 

Mrs Culver I was too young at the time to marry a boy 
twenty years younger than myself 

Constance It hasn’t prevented you from flirting out- 
rageously with the creature ever since It’s lucky I’m 
not a jealous woman. 

John What have you been doing all day, darling? 

Constance I’ve been shopping with Mane-Louise. 


p 



ACT I 


Xo6 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

John {Shaking hands wtth Marie-Louise ] Oh, how do you 
do p Did you lunch together? 

Martha No, she lunched with a beau 

John I wish it had been me [To Marie-Louise ] ’What 
have you been doing with yourself lately^ We haven’t 
seen you for ages 

Marie-Louise You’re never about Constance and I 
almost live in one another’s pockets 

John How’s that nch husband of yours^ 

Marie-Louise I’ve just been speaking to him Isn’t it a 
bore, he’s got to go down to Birmingham for the night, 

Constance You’d better come and dine with us 

Marie-Louise Oh, it’s awfully nice of you But I’m tired 
out I shall just go to bed and have an egg * 

John I was just going to tell you, Constance I shan’t be 
in this evening I’ve got an acute appendix to do 

Constance Oh, what a nuisance 

Martha You’ve got a wonderful profession, John If you 
ever want to do anything or go anywhere you’ve only 
got to say you’ve got an operation and no one can prove 
it’s a he 

Constance Oh, my dear, you mustn’t put suspicions into 
my innocent head It would never occur to John to be 
so deceitful [To John ] Would it? 

John I think I’d have to go an awful long way before I 
managed to deceive you, darling 

Constance, [Wtth a little smile ] Sometimes I think you 5 re 
nght 

Marie-Louise. I do like to see a husband and wife so 
devoted to one another as you and John. You’ve been 
mamed fifteen years, haven’t you? 

John Yes And it doesn’t seem a day too much. 



ACT I THE CONSTANT WIFE IO7 

Marie-Louise Well, I must be tunning along Fm late 
already Good-bye, darling Good-bye, Mrs Culver 
Constance Good-bye, darling We’ve bad such a nice 
afternoon 

Marie-Louise [Giving her hand to John ] Good-bye 
John Oh, I’ll come downstairs with you 
Martha I was just go mg, Marie-Louise I’ll come with 
you 

Marie-Louise [With presence of mind] John, I wonder if 
you’d mind looking at my knee for a minute It’s been 
rather painful for the last day or two 
John Of course not Come into my consulting-room 
These knee-caps are troublesome things when you once 
get them out of order 

Martha [Firmly ] I’ll wait for you You won’t be long, 
will you^ We might share a taxi 
Marie-Louise I’ve got my car 
Martha Oh, how nice! You can give me a lift then 
Marie-Louise Of course I shall be delighted 

[John opens the door for Marie-Louise She goes out 
and be follows her Constance has watched ibis 
little scene coolly , hut with an alert mind 

Martha. What is the matter with her knee? 

Constance It slips. 

Martha What happens then? 

Constance She slips too 

Martha Are you never jealous of these women who come 
and see John in his consulting-room? 

Constance He always has a nurse within call in case they 
should attempt to take liberties with him. 

Martha. [Amiably ] Is the nurse there now? 

Constance. And anyway I can’t help thinking that the sort 



108 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT I 

of woman who wants to be made love to in a consulting- 
room with a lively odour of antiseptics is the sort of 
woman who wears homd undies I could never bnng 
myself to be jealous of her 

Martha Mane-Louise gave me two of her chemises to 
copy only the other day 

Constance Oh, did she give you the cerise one with the 
Irish lace insertions? I thought that sweet I’ve copied 
that 

Barbara It’s true that Mane-Louise is very pretty 
Constance Mane-Louise is a darling But she and John 
have known each other far too long John likes her of 
course, but he says she has no brain 
Martha Men don’t always say what they trunk 
Constance Fortunately, or we shouldn’t always know 
what they feel 

Martha Don’t you think J ohn has any secrets from you? 
Constance I’m sure of it But of course a good wife 
always pretends not to know the little things her 
husband wishes to keep hidden from her That is an 
elementary rule in matrimonial etiquette 
Martha Don’t forget that men were deceivers ever 
Constance My dear, you talk like a confirmed spinster 
What woman was ever deceived that didn’t want to be? 
Do you really think that men are mysterious? They’re 
children Why, my dear, John at forty isn’t nearly so 
grown up as Helen at fourteen. 

Barbara How is your girl, Constance? 

Constance Oh, she’s very well She loves boarding- 
school, you know They’re like little boys, men Some- 
times of course they’re rather naughty and you have to 
pretend to be angry with them They attach so much 
importance to such entirely unimportant things that it’s 
really touching And they’re so helpless Have you 



ACT I THE CONSTANT WIFE I09 

never nursed a man when he’s llP It wrings your heart 
It’s just like a dog or a horse They haven’t got the 
sense to come in out of the ram, poor darlings They 
have all the charming qualities that accompany general 
incompetence They’re sweet and good and silly and 
tiresome and selfish You can’t help liking them, 
they’re so ingenuous and so simple They have no 
complexity or finesse I think they’re sweet, but it’s 
absurd to take them seriously You’re a wise woman, 
mother What do you think 5 

Mrs Culver I think you’re not in love with your husband 

Constance What nonsense 

[John comes in 

John Mane-Lomse is waiting for you, Martha I’ve just 
put a little bandage round her knee 

Constance I hope you weren’t rough 

Martha [To Constance] Good-bye, dear Are you 
coming, mother^ 

Mrs Culver Not just yet 

Martha Good-bye, Barbara 

[Martha and John go out 

Barbara Constance, I’ve got a suggestion to make to you 
You know that my business has been growing by leaps 
and bounds and I simply cannot get along alone any 
more I was wondering if you’d like to come in with 
me 

Constance Oh, my dear, I’m not a business woman 

Barbara You’ve got marvellous taste and you have ideas 
You could do all the decorating and I’d confine myself to 
buying and selling furniture 

Constance But I’ve got no capital 

Barbara I’ve got all the capital I want. I must have help 
and I know no one more suitable than you We’d go 



IIO 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


ACT I 


fifty-fifty and I think I can promise that you’d make a 
thousand to fifteen hundred a year 

Constance I’ve been an idle woman so long I think I’d 
find it dreadfully hard to work eight hours a day 

Barbara Won’t you think it over 5 It’s very interesting, 
you know You’re naturally energetic Don’t you get 
bored with doing nothing all the time? 

Constance I don’t think John would like it After all, it 
would look as though he couldn’t afford to support me 

Barbara Oh, not nowadays, surely There’s no reason why 
a woman shouldn’t have a career just as much as a man 

Constance I think my career is looking after John — run- 
ning a house for him, entertaining his friends and making 
him happy and comfortable 

Barbara Don’t you think it rather a mistake to put all 
your eggs in one basket? Supposing that career failed 
you? 

Constance Why should it? 

Barbara Of course I hope it won’t But men, you know, 
are fluctuating and various Independence is a very good 
thing, and a woman who stands on her own feet financi- 
ally can look upon the future with a good deal of 
confidence 

Constance It’s sweet of you, but so long as John and I are 
happy together I think I should be a fool to do anything 
that would vex him 

Barbara, Of course I’m in no immediate hurry One never 
knows what the future will bring forth I want you to 
know that if you change your mind the job is open to 
you I don’t think I shall ever find any one so competent 
as you* You have only to say the word 

Constance Oh, Barbara, you are kind to me It’s a splen- 
did offer and I’m ever so grateful to you Don’t think 
me horrid if I say I hope I shall never need to accept it 



ACT I THE CONSTANT WIFE ill 

B \rbara Of course not Good-bye, darling 

Constance Good-bye, dear 

[Thej ktssy and Barbara goes out Constance rings the 
bell 

Mrs Culver Are you quite happy, dear* 

Constance Oh, quite Don’t I look it ? 

Mrs Culver Fm bound to say you do So far as I can 
judge by the look of you I should say you haven’t a 
trouble in the world 

Constance You’d be wrong My cook has given notice 
and she makes the best menngues Fve ever eaten 

Mrs Culver I like John 

Constance So do I He has a!2 the solid qualities that make 
a man a good husband, an agreeable temper, a sense of 
humour and an entire indifference to petty extravagance 

Mrs Culver How right you are, darling, to realise that 
those are the solid qualities 

Constance It’s not the seven deadly virtues that make a 
man a good husband, but the three hundred pleasing 
amiabilities 

Mrs Culver Of course one has to compromise in life 
One has to make the best of things One mustn’t 
expect too much from people If one wants to be happy 
in one’s own way one must let others be happy in 
theirs If one can’t get this, that and the other the wise 
thing is to make up one’s mind to do without it The 
great thing is not to let vanity warp one’s reasonable 
point of view 

Constance Mother, mother, pull yourself together 

Mrs Culver: Everybody’s so clever nowadays They see 
everything but the obvious Fve discovered that I only 
have to say it quite simply in order to be thought a most 
original and amusing old lady* 



112 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


ACT I 


Constance Spare me, darling 

Mrs Culver [Affectionately ] If at any time anything went 
wrong with you, you would tell your mother, wouldn’t 
yoiP 

Const *nce Of course 

Mrs Culver I hate the thought that you might be unhappy 
and let a foolish pride prevent you from letting me 
console and advise you 

Constance [With feeltng ] It wouldn’t, mother dear 

Mrs Culver I had rather an odd experience the other day 
A little friend of mine came to see me and told me that 
her husband was neglecting her I asked her why she 
told me and not her own mother She said that her 
mother had never wanted her to marry and it would 
mortify her now to have to say that she had made a 
mistake 

Constance Oh, well, J ohn never neglect s me, mother 

Mrs Culver Of course I gave her a good talking to She 
didn’t get much sympathy from me 

Constance [With a smile ] That was very unkind, wasn’t 
it? 

Mrs Culver I have my own ideas about marriage If a 
man neglects his wife it’s her own fault, and if he’s 
systematically unfaithful to her in nine cases out of ten 
she only has herself to blame 

Constance [Ringing the belli Systematically is a grim 
word 

Mrs Culver No sensible woman attaches importance to 
an occasional slip Time and chance are responsible for 
that 

Constance And shall we say, masculine vanity? 

Mrs Culver I told my little fnend that if her husband was 
unfaithful to her it was because he found other women 



ACT I THE CONSTANT WIFE II3 

more attractive Why should she be angry with him for 
that^ Her business was to be more attractive than they 

Constance You are not what they call a feminist, mother, 
are yom> 

Mrs Culver After all, what is fidelity^ 

Constance Mother, do you mind if I open the window^ 

Mrs Culver It is open 

Constance In that case do you mind if I shut it^ I feel that 
when a woman of your age asks such a question I should 
make some sort of symbolic gesture 

Mrs Culver Don’t be ridiculous Of course I believe in 
fidelity for women I suppose no one has ever questioned 
the desirability of that But men are different Women 
should remember that they have their homes and their 
name and position and their family, and they should learn 
to close their eyes when it’s possible they may see 
something they are not meant to 

[Tie Butler comes tn 

Bentley Did you ring, Madam^ 

Constance Yes I am expecting Mr Bernard Kersal 
I’m not at home to anybody else 

Bentley Very good, madam 

Constance Is Mr Middleton in? 

Bentley Yes, madam He’s in the consulting-room. 

Constance Very well 

[Tie Butler goes out 

Mrs Culver Is that a polite way of telling me that I had 
better take myself oflP 

Constance Of course not On the contrary I particularly 
want you to stay. 

Mrs Culver Who is this mysterious gendeman? 

Constance Mother Bernard 



ACT r 


1x4 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Mrs Culver That says nothing to me at all Not Saint 
Bernard, darling? 

Constance Pull yourself together, my pet You must 
remember Bernard Kersal He proposed to me 
Mrs Culver Oh, my dear, you cannot expect me to 
remember the names of all the young men who proposed 
to you 

Constance Yes, but he proposed more than any of the 
others 

Mrs Culver Why? 

Constance I suppose because I refused him I can’t think 
* of any other reason 

Mrs Culver He made no impression on me 
Constance I don’t suppose he tried to 
Mrs Culver What did he look like? 

Constance He was tall 

Mrs Culver They were all tall 

Constance He had brown hair and brown eyes 

Mrs Culver They all had brown hair and brown eyes 

Constance He danced divinely 

Mrs Culver They all danced divinely 

Constance I very nearly married him, you know 

Mrs Culver Why didn’t you? 

Constance I think he was a trifle too much inclined to he 
down on the floor and let me walk over him 
Mrs Culver In short he had no sense of humour 

Constance I was quite certain that he loved me, and I was 
never absolutely sure that John did 
Mrs Culver Well, you’re sure now, dear, aren’t you? 
Constance Oh, yes John adores me 

Mrs Culver* And what’s this young man commg for 
to-day? 



ACT I THE CONSTANT WIFE II5 

Constance He’s not such a very young man any more He 
was twenty-nine then and so he must be nearly forty-five 
now 

Mrs Culver He isn’t still in love with you? 

Constance I shouldn’t think so Do you think it possible 
after fifteen years? It’s surely very unlikely Don’t look 
at me like that, mother I don’t like it 

Mrs Culver Don’t talk stuff and nonsense to me, child 
Of course you know if he’s in love with you or not 

Constance But I haven’t seen him since I married John 
You see he lives in Japan He’s a merchant or something 
in Kobe He was here during the war on leave But that 
was when I was so dreadfully ill and I didn’t see him 

Mrs Culver OhI Why’s he here now then? Have you 
been corresponding with him? 

Constance No One can’t write letters to any one one 
never sees for fifteen years He always sends me flowers 
on my birthday 

Mrs Culver That’s rather sweet of him 

Constance And the other day I had a letter from him 
saying he was in England and would like to see me So 
I asked him to come to-day 

Mrs Culver I wondered why you were so smart 

Constance Of course he may be terribly changed* Men go 
off so dreadfully, don’t they? He may be bald and fat 
now 

Mrs Culver He may be married 

Constance Oh, if he were I don’t think he’d want to come 
and see me, would he? 

Mrs Culver: I see you’re under the impression that he’s 
still in love with you 

Constance Oh, I’m not. 

Mrs Culver. Then why are you so nervous? 



ACT I 


Il6 the constant wife 

Constance It’s only natural that I shouldn’t want him to 
think me old and haggard He adored me, mother I 
suppose he still thi n ks of me as I was then It wouldn’t 
be very nice if his face fell about a yard and a half when 
he came into the room 

Mrs Culver I think I’d much better leave you to face the 
ordeal alone 

Constance On, no, mother, you must stay I particularly 
want you You see, he may be awful and I may wish I’d 
never seen him again It’ll be so much easier if you’re 
here I may not want to be alone with him at all 

Mrs Culver Oh 

Constance [With a twinkle m her eye ] On the other hand I 
may 

Mrs Culver It seems to me you’re putting me in a slightly 
embarrassing situation 

Constance Now listen If I think he’s awful we’U just talk 
about the weather and the crops for a few minutes and 
then we’ll have an ominous pause and stare at him 
That always makes a man feel a perfect fool and the 
moment a man feels a fool he gets up and goes 

Mrs Culver Sometimes they don’t know how to, poor 
dears, and the earth will never open and swallow them 
up 

Constance On the other hand if I think he looks rather 
nice I shall just take out my handkerchief and carelessly 
place it on the piano 

Mrs Culver Why ? 

Constance Darling, in order that you may rise to your 
aged feet and say, well, you really must be running 
along 

Mrs Culver Yes, I know that, but why should you care- 
lessly place your handkerchief on the piano? 



ACT I 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


117 

Constance Because I am a creature of impulse I shall have 
an impulse to place my handkerchief on the piano 

Mrs Culver Oh, very well But I always mistrust 
impulses 

[Bentley enters and announces Bernard Kersal He 
is a tall good-looking man , sunburned and of healthy 
appearance He is evidently very fit and he carries his 
forty five years well 

Bentley Mr Kersal 

Constance How do you do^ Do you remember my 
mother* 

Bernard [Shaking hands with her] I’m sure she doesn’t 
remember me 

[Constance takes a small handkerchief out of her bag . 

Mrs Culver That is the soft answer that turneth away 
wrath 

Constance It’s rather late for tea, isn’t it^ Would you like 
a dnnk^ 

[As she says this she goes towards the bell and places her 
handkerchief on the piano 

Bernard No, thanks I’ve just this moment had one. 

Constance To brace you for seeing me^ 

Bernard I was nervous 

Constance Have I changed as much as you expected^ 

Bernard Oh, that’s not what I was nervous about 

Mrs Culver Is it really fifteen years since you saw 
Constance^ 

Bernard Ye& I didn’t see her when I was last in England 
When I got demobbed I had to go out to Japan again and 
get my business together I haven’t had a chance to come 
home before 

[Constance has been giving her mother significant looks , 
but her mother does not notice them Constance takes 



1X8 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT I 

a second handkerchief out of her hag and when the 
opportunity arises places it neatly on the piano beside 
the first one 

Mrs Culver And are you home for long? 

Bernard A year 

Mrs Culver Have you brought your wife with you^ 

Bernard Fm not married 

Mrs Culver Oh, Constance said you were married to a 
Japanese lady 

Constance Nonsense, mother I never said anything of the 
sort 

Mrs Culver Oh, perhaps I was thinking of Julia Linton 
She married an Egyptian pasha I believe she’s very 
happy At all events he hasn’t killed her yet 

Bernard How is your husband 5 

Constance He’s very well I dare say he’ll be in presently 

Bernard Haven’t you got a little sister 5 I suppose she’s 
out now 5 

Mrs Culver He means Martha She’s come out and gone 
m again 

Constance She was not so very much younger than me, 
you know She’s thirty-two now 

[Mrs Culver has taken no notice of the handkerchiefs 
and in desperation Constance takes a third from her 
bag and places it beside the other two 

Mrs Culver Do you like the East, Mr Kersal? 

Bernard One has a pretty good time there, you know 

[Now Mrs Culver catches sight of the three handker- 
chiefs and starts 

Mrs Culver I wonder what the time is 
Constance It’s late, mother Are you dining out to-night? 
I suppose you want to have a lie-down before you dress 
for dinner 



ACT I 


THE CONSTANT VIFE 


119 


Mrs Culver I hope I shall see you again, Mr Kersal 
Bernard Thank you very much 

[Constance accompanies her to the door 
Mrs Culver Good-bye, darling [In a whisper] I couldn't 
remember if the handkerchiefs meant go or stay 
Constance You had only to use your eyes You can see at 
a glance that he is the kind of man one would natur all y 
want to have a heart-to-heart talk with after fifteen 
years 

Mrs Culver You only confused me by putting more and 
more handkerchiefs on the piano 
Constance For goodness' sake go, mother [Aloud] 
Good-bye, my sweet I'm sorry you’ve got to run away 
so soon 

Mrs Culver Good-bye 

[She goes out and Constance comes hack into the room 
Constance Did you think it very rude of us to whisper* 
Mother has a passion for secrets 
Bernard Of course not 

Constance Now let's sit down and make ourselves 
comfortable Let me look at you You haven't changed 
much You're a little thinner and perhaps a little more 
lined Men are so lucky, if they have any character they 
grow better-looking as they grow older. Do you know 
I'm thirty-six now? 

Bernard What does that matter* 

Constance* Shall I tell you something? When you wrote 
and suggested coming here I was delighted at the thought 
of seeing you again and wrote at once making a date 
And then I was panic-stricken. I would have given 
almost anything not to have sent that letter And all 
to-day I've had such a horrible feeling at the pit of my 
stomach Didn't you see my knees wobble when you 
came into the room? 



HO THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT I 

Bernard In God’s name, why? 

Constance Oh, my dear, I think you must be a little stupid 
I should be a perfect fool if I didn’t know that when I was 
a girl I was very pretty It’s rather a pang when you are 
forced to the conclusion that you’re not quite so pretty as 
you were People don’t tell one One tries to hide it 
from oneself Anyhow I thought I’d rather know the 
worst That’s one of the reasons I asked you to come 
Bernard Whatever I thought you can hardly imagine that 
I should be deliberately rude 

Constance Of course not But I watched your face I was 
afraid I’d see there By God, how she’s gone oil 
Bernard And did you^ 

Constance You were rather shy when you came in You 
weren’t thinking of me 

Bernard It’s quite true, fifteen years ago you were a pretty 
girl Now you’re lovely You’re ten times more 
beautiful than you were then 
Constance. It’s nice of you to say so 
Bernard Don’t you believe lt^ 

Constance I think you do And I confess that’s sufficiently 
gratifying Now tell me, why aren’t you married^ It’s 
time you did, you know, or it’ll be too late You’ll have 
a very lonely old age if you don’t 
Bernard I never wanted to marry an} one but you 
Constance Oh, come, you’re not going to tell me that 
you’ve never been in love since you were in love with 
me? 

Bernard No, I’ve been in love half a dozen* times, but 
when it came to the point I found I still loved you best 
Constance I like you for saying that I shouldn’t have 
believed it if you’d said you’d never loved anybody else 
and I should have been vexed with you for thinking me 
such a fool as to believe it* 



ACT I 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


121 


Bernard You see, it was you I loved in the others One 
because she had hair like yours and another because her 
smile reminded me of your smile 

Constance I hate to think that I've made you u nhap py 

Bernard But you haven’t. I’ve had a very good time, I’ve 
enjoyed my work. I’ve made a bit of money and I’ve had 
a lot of fun I don’t blame you for having married John 
instead of me 

Constance Do you remember John* 

Bernard Of course I do He was a very nice fellow I 
dare say he’s made you a better husband than I should 
have I’ve had my ups and downs I’m very irritable 
sometimes John’s been able to give you everything you 
wanted You were much safer with him By the way, I 
suppose I can still call you Constance 
Constance Of course Why not* Do you know, I f-hmlr 
you have a very nice nature, Bernard 

Bernard Are you happy with J ohn? 

Constance Oh, very I don’t say that he has never given 
me a moment’s uneasiness He did once, but I took hold 
of myself and saw that I mustn’t be silly I’m very glad I 
did I think I can quite honestly say that ours has been a 
very happy and successful marriage 

Bernard I’m awfully glad to hear that Do you think it’s 
cheek to ask if John loves you* 

Constance I’m sure he loves me 
Bernard And do you love him? 

Constance Very much 

Bernard May I make you a short speech* 

Constance If I may interrupt at suitable moments 
Bernard X hope you’re going to let me see a great deal of 
you during tins year I’ve got at home 
Constance I want to see a great deal of you 



122 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


ACT I 


Bernard There’s just one thing I want to get off my chest 
and then I needn’t refer to it again I am just as madly in 
love with you as I was when I asked you to marry me 
fifteen years ago I think I shall remain in love with you 
all my life I’m too old a dog to learn new tricks But I 
want you to know that you needn’t have the smallest fear 
that I shall make a nuisance of myself I should think it 
an awfully caddish thing to try to come between you and 
John I suppose we all want to be happy, but I don’t 
believe the best way of being that is to try to upset other 
people’s happiness 

Constance That’s not such a very long speech after all 
At a public dinner they would hardly even call it a few 
remarks 

Bernard All I ask for is your friendship and if in return I 
care to give you my love I don’t see that it’s any one’s 
business but my own. 

Constance I don’t think it is I think I can be a very good 
friend, Bernard 

\The door opens and John comes tn 

John Oh *’m sorry I didn’t know you were engaged 

Constance I’m not Comem This is Bernard Kersah 

John How do you do? 

Bernard I’m afraid you don’t remember me 

John If you ask me point-blank I think it’s safer to confess 
I don’t 

Constance Don’t be so silly, John He used to come to 
mother’s 

John Before we were married, d’you mearn* 

Constance Yes You spent several week-ends with us 
together 

John My dear, that was fifteen years ago I’m awfully 
sorry not to remember you, but I’m delighted to see you 
now. 



ACT I 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


Constance He’s just come back from Japan 
John Oh, well, I hope we shall see you again Fm just 
going along to the club to have a rubber before dinner, 
darling [To Bernard ] Why don’t you dme here with 
Constance^ I’ve got an acute appendix and she’ll be all 
alone, poor darling 

Bernard Oh, that’s awfully kind of you 
Constance It would be a friendly act Are you free? 
Bernard Always to do a friendly act 
Constance Very well I shall expect you at eight-fifteen 

END OF THE FIRST \CT 



THE SECOND ACT 


I he Seem ts the same 
A Fortnight has passed 

Martha m walking costume and a hat ts looking at an illustrated 
paper 

Bentley comes in 


Bentley Mr Kersal is here, Miss 

Martha Oh* Ask him if he won’t come up 

Bentley Very good. Miss [He goes out and tn a moment 
comes tn again to announce Bernard, and then goes ] Mr 
Kersal 

Martha Constance is dressing She won’t be very long 

Bernard Oh, I see Well, there’s no violent hurry 

Martha You’re taking her to Ranelagh, aren’t you^ 

Bernard That was the idea I know some of the fellows 
who are playing to-day 

Martha Are you having a good time in London^ 

Bernard Marvellous When a man’s lived in the East as 
long as I have, he’s apt to feel rather out of it when 
he comes home But Constance and John have been 
ripping to me 

Martha Do you like John? 

Bernard Yes He’s been awfully kind 

Martha Do you know, I remember you quite well 

Bernard Oh, you can’t You were a kid when I used to 
come down and stay with your mother 

1*4 



ACT IX THE CONSTANT WIFE IZj 

Mari ha I was sixteen Do you imagine I wasn't thrilled to 
the marrow by Constance’s young men? 

Bernard There were a good many ot tnem I should have 
thought your marrow got callous 

Martha But you were one of the senous ones I always 
thought you terribly romantic 

Bernard 1 was terribly romantic I think it’s becoming in 
the young 

Martha I don’t think it’s unbecoming in the not quite as 
young 

Bernard Don’t think I’m romantic now I make a 
considerable income and I’m putting on weight The 
price of silk has ousted love’s young dream in my manly 
bosom 

Martha You’re an unconscionable liar 

Bernard To which I can only retort that you’re excessively 
rude 

Martha You were madly in love with Constance in those 
days, weren’t you 5 

Bernard You know, it’s so long ago I forget 

Martha I advised her to marry you rather than John 

Bernard Why? 

Martha Well, for one thing you lived in Japan I would 
have married any one who would take me there 

Bernard I live there still 

Martha Oh, I don’t want to marry you 

Bernard I couldn’t help suspecting that 

Martha I could never really quite understand what Jhe 
saw in John 

Bernard I suppose she loved him 

Martha I wonder if she ever regrets that she married John 
rather than you 



act n 


126 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Bernard Well, don’t She’s perfectly satisfied with John 
and wouldn’t change him for anything in the world 

Martha It’s exasperating, isn’t it? 

Bernard I don’t think so It must make it much more 
comfortable for a husband and wife to be content with 
one another 

Martha You’re in love with her still, aren’t you* 

Bernard Not a bit 

Martha Upon my soul, you’ve got a nerve Why, you 
donkey, you’re giving it away all the time Do you 
know what you look like when she’s in the room? 
Have you any idea how your eyes change when they rest 
on her* When you speak her name it sounds as though 
you were kissing it 

Bernard I thought you were an odious child when you 
were sixteen, Martha, and now that you’re thirty-two I 
think you’re a horrible woman 

Martha I’m not really But I’m very fond of Constance 
and I’m inclined to be rather fond of you 

Bernard Don’t you think you could show your attach- 
ment by minding your own business* 

Martha Why does it make you angry because I’ve told 
you that no one can see you with Constance for five 
minutes without knowing that you adore her* 

Bernard My dear. I’m here for one year I want to be 
happy I don’t want to give trouble of cause trouble I 
value my friendship with Constance and I hate the idea 
that any thing should interfere with it 

Martha Hasn’t it occurred to you that she may want more 
than your friendship* 

Bernard No, it has not 

Martha You need not jump down my throat. 

Bernard Constance is perfectly happy with her husband. 



ACT II 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


You must think me a damned swine if you think Fm 
going to butt in and try to smash up a perfectly wonder- 
ful union 

Martha But, you poor fool, don’t you know that John has 
been notoriously unfaithful to Constance for ages** 

Bernard I don’t believe it 

Martha Ask any one you like Mother knows it Barbara 
Fawcett knows it Every one knows it but Constance 

Bernard That certainly isn’t true Mrs Durham told me 
when I met her at dinner two or three days ago that John 
and Constance were the most devoted couple she’d ever 
known 

Martha Did Mane-Louise tell you that^ 

Bernard She did 

[Martha begins to laugh She can hardly restrain herself 

Martha The nerve Marie-Louise Oh, my poor Bernard 
Mane-Louise is John’s mistress 

Bernard Marie-Louise is Constance’s greatest fnend 

Martha Yes 

Bernard If this is a pack of lies I swear I’ll damned well 
wring your neck, 

Martha All right 

Bernard That was a silly thing to say I’m sorry 

Martha Oh, I don’t mind I like a man to be violent, I 
think you’re just the sort of man Constance needs 

Bernard What the devil do you mean by thaf> 

Martha it can’t go on Constance is being made perfectly 
ridiculous Her position is monstrous I thought she 
ought to be told and as every one else seemed to shirk the 
job I was prepared to do it myself My mother was so 
disagreeable about it. I’ve had to promise not to say a 
Word 



ACT II 


128 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Bernard You’re not under the delusion that I’m going to 
tell her 5 

Martha No, I don’t really think it would come very well 
from you But things can’t go on She’s bound to find 
out All I want you to do is to well, stand by 

Bernard But Marie-Louise has got a husband What 
about hmP 

Martha His only ambition in life is to make a million 
He’s the sort of a fool who thinks a woman loves him 
just because he loves her Marie-Louise can turn him 
round her little finger 

Bernard Has Constance never suspected^ 

Martha Never You’ve only got to look at her Really, 
her self-confidence sometimes is positively maddening 

Bernard I wonder if it wouldn’t be better that she never 
did find out She’s so happy She’s entirely care- 
free You’ve only got to look at that open brow and 
those frank, trustful eyes 

Martha I thought you loved her 

Bernard Enough to want her happiness above all things 

Martha You are forty-five, aren’t you? I forgot that for a 
moment 

Bernard Dear Martha You have such an attractive way 
of putting things 

[Constance’s voice on the stairs is heard calling 
Bentley, Bentley 

Martha Oh, there’s Constance I can’t imagine where 
mother is I think I’ll go into the brown room and write 
a letter 

[Bernard takes no notice of what she says nor does he 
make any movement when she goes out ; A moment 
later Constance comes tn 

Constance Have I kept you waiting? 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE 1*9 

Bernard It doesn’t matter 
Constance Hulloat What’s up? 

Bernard With me? Nothing Why? 

Constance You look all funny Why are your eyes 
suddenly opaque? 

Bernard I didn’t know they were 

Constance Are you trying to hide something from me? 

Bernard Of course not 

Constance Have you had bad news from Japan? 

Bernard No Far from it Silk is booming 
Constance Then you’re going to tell me that you’ve just 
got engaged to a village maiden 
Bernard No, I’m not 

Constance I hate people who keep secrets from me 
Bernard I have no secrets from you 
Constance Do you think I don’t know your face by now? 
Bernard You’ll make me vain I would never have 
ventured to think that you took the trouble to look 
twice at my ugly face 

Constance [With sudden suspicion ] Wasn’t Martha here 
when you came? She hasn’t gone, has she? 

Bernard She’s waiting for her mother She’s gone into 
another room to write letters 
Constance Did you see her? 

Bernard [Trying to be very casual ] Yes We had a little 
chat about the weather 

Constance [Immediately grasping what has happened ] Oh 

Don’t you think we ought to be starting? 

Bernard There’s plenty of time It’s no good getting 
there too early 

Constance Then I’ll take off my hat 

Bernard And it’s jolly here, isn’t it? I love your room 



ACT II 


I30 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance Do you think it’s a success? I did it myself 
Barbara Fawcett wants me to go into the decorating 
business She’s in it, you know, and she’s making quite 
a lot of money 

Bernard [Smhng to bide bis anxiety in asking the question ] 
Aren’t you happy at home^ 

Constance [Breezily ] I don’t think it necessarily means 
one’s unhappy at home because one wants an occupation 
One may very easily grow tired of going to parties all the 
time But as a matter of fact I refused Barbara’s offer 

Bernard [Insisting] You are happy, aren’t you? 

Constance Very 

Bernard You’ve made m very happy during this last 
fortnight I feel as though I’d never been away You’ve 
been awfully kind to me 

Constance I’m very glad you think so I don’t know that 
I’ve done anything very much for you 

Bernard Yes, you have You’ve let me see you 

Constance I let the policeman at the corner do that, you 
know 

Bernard You mustn’t think that because I take care only 
to talk to you of quite casual things I don’t still love you 
with all my heart 

Constance [Quite coolly ] We agreed when first you came 
back that your feelings were entirely your business 

Bernard Do you mind my loving you? 

Constance Oughtn’t we all to love one another^ 

Bernard, Don’t tease me 

Constance My dear, I can’t help being pleased and 
flattered and rather touched It is rather wonderful that 
any one should care for me 

Bernard [ Interrupting ] So much? 

Constance After so many years 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE I^I 

Bernard If any one had asked me fifteen years ago if I 
could love you more than I loved you then I should have 
said it was impossible I love you ten times more than I 
ever loved you before 

Constance [Going on with her own speech ] But I don’t in the 
least want you to make love to me now 

Bernard I know Fm not going to I know you far too 
well 

Constance [Amused and a trifle taken aback ] I don’t quite 
know what you’ve been doing for the last five minutes 

Bernard I was merely stating a few plain facts 

Constance Oh, I beg your pardon I thought it was 
something quite different I’m afraid you might mistake 
my meaning if I said I’m quite cunous to see how you do 
make love 

Bernard [< Good-humouredly ] I have a notion that you’re 
laughing at me 

Constance In the hope of teaching you to laugh at 
yourself 

Bernard I’ve been very good during the last fortnight, 
haven’t I? 

Constance Yes, I kept on saying to myself I wonder if a 
pat of butter really would melt in his mouth 

Bernard Well, for just a minute I’m going to let myself go 

Constance I wouldn’t if I were you 

Bernard Yes, but you’re not I want to tell you just once 
that I worship the ground you tread on There’s never 
been any one in the world for me but you 

Constance Oh, nonsense There have been half a dozen 
We are seven 

Bernard They were all you I love you with all my heart 
I admire you more than any woman I’ve ever met I 
respect you I’m an awful fool when it comes to the 



132 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


ACT II 


point I don’t know how to say all I’ve got in my heart 
without feeling like a perfect ass I love you I want you 
to know that if ever you’re in trouble I should look 
upon it as the greatest possible happiness to be allowed 
to help you 

Constance That’s very kind of you I don’t see why 1 
should be in any trouble 

Bernard Always and in all circumstances you can count 
on me absolutely I will do anything in the world for 
you If ever you want me you have only to give me a 
sign I should be proud and happy to give my life for 
you 

Constance It’s sweet of you to say so 

Bernard Don’t you believe it? 

Constance [With a charming smile ] Yes 

Bernard I should like to think that it meant — oh, not very 
much, but just a little to you 

Constance [Almost shaken] It means a great deal I thank 
you 

Bernard Now we won’t say anything more about it 

Constance [ Recovering her accustomed coolness ] But why did 
you think it necessary to say all this just now? 

Bernard I wanted to get it off mv chest 

Constance Oh, really 

Bernard You’re not angry with me ? 

Constance Oh, Bernard, I’m not that kind of a fool at all 
It’s a pitv that Martha doesn’t marry 

Bernard Don’t think that I’m going to marry her. 

Constance I don’t I merely thought that a husband would 
be a pleasant and useful occupation for her She’s quite a 
nice girl, you know A liar, of course, but otherwise ah 
right 

Bernard Oh> 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE I33 

Constance Yes, a terrible liar, even for a woman 

Shall we start now? It’s no good getting there when the- 
polo is over 

Bernard All right Let’s start 

Constance I’ll put my hat on again By the way, you* 
haven’t had a taxi waiting all this time, have yoiP 

Bernard No, I’ve got a car I thought I’d like to drive 
you down myself 

Constance Open or shut? 

Bernard Open 

Constance Oh, my dear, then I must get another hat A 
broad brim like this is such a bore in an open car 

Bernard Oh, I am sorry 

Constance It doesn’t matter a bit I shall only be a minute 
And why on earth shouldn’t one be comfortable if one- 
can? 

[She goes out In a moment Bentley shows m Marie- 
Louise 

Marie-Louise Oh, how do you do [To Bentley ] Will 
you tell Mr Middleton at once^ 

Bentley Yes, madam 

[Exit Bentley 

Marie-Louise [Rather flustered ] I particularly wanted to 
see John for a minute and there are patients waiting to- 
see him, so I asked Bentley if he couldn’t come here* 

Bernard I’ll take myself off 

Marie-Louise I’m awfully sorry, but it’s rather urgent*. 
John hates to be disturbed like this 

Bernard I’ll go into the next room* 

Marie-Louise Are you waiting for Constance? 

Bernard Yes, I’m taking her to Ranelagh She’s changing: 
her hat 



ACT n 


i$4 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Marie-Louise I see Bentley told me she was upstairs 
Good-bye I shall only be a minute [Bernard goes into 
the adjoining room just as John comes m ] Oh, John, Fm 
sorry to drag you away from your patients 

John There’s nothing urgent They can wait for a few 
minutes [Bernard has closed the door behind Jnm> and 
John’s tone changes They speak now m a low voice and 
quickly ] Is anything the matter? 

Marie-Louise Mortimer 
John What about Mortimer^ 

Marie-Louise Fm convinced he suspects 
John Why? 

Marie-Louise He was so funny last night He came mto 
my room to say good-night to me He sat on my bed 
He was chatting nicely and he was asking what I’d been 
doing with myself all the evening 
John Presumably you didn’t tell him 

Marie-Louise No, I said I’d been dining here And 
suddenly he got up and just said good-night and went 
out His voice was so strange that I couldn’t help looking 
at him He was as red as a turkey cock 
John Is that alP 

Marie-Louise He never came in to say good-mommg to 
me before he went to the Gty 
John He may have been m a hurry, 

Marie-Louise He’s never in too much of a hurry for that 
John I think you’re making a mountain of a mole heap 

Marie-Louise Don’t be stupid, John* Can’t you see Fm as 
nervous as a cat? 

John I can But I’m try mg to persuade you there’s 
nothing to be nervous about 

Marie-Louise What fools men are They never will see 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE I35 

that it’s the small things that matter I tell you I’m 
frightened out of my wits 

John You know there’s a devil of a distance between 
suspicion and proof 

Marie-Louise Oh, I don’t think he could prove anything 
But he can make himself awfully unpleasant Supposing 
he put ideas in Constance’s heacP 

John She’d never believe him 

Marie-Louise If the worst came to worst I could manage 
Mortimer He’s awfully in love with me That always 
gives one such an advantage over a man 

John Of course you can twist Mortimer round your little 
finger 

Marie-Louise I should die of shame if Constance knew 
After all, she’s my greatest friend and I’m absolutely 
devoted to her 

John Constance is a peach Of course I don’t believe 
there’s anything in this at all, but if there were, I’d be in 
favour of making a clean breast of it to Constance 

Marie-Louise Neverl 

John I expect she’d kick up a row Any woman would. 
But she’d do anything in the world to help us out 

Marie-Louise A lot you know about women She’d help 
you out, I dare say But she’d stamp on me with both 
feet That’s only human nature 

John Not Constance’s 

Marie-Louise Upon my word, it’s lucky I’m fairly sure of 
you, John, or the way you talk of Constance would really 
make me jealous 

John Thank God you can smile You’re getting your 
nerve back 

Marie-Louise It’s been a comfort to talk it over It 
doesn’t seem so bad now. 



ACT II 


136 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

John I’m sure you’ve got nothing to be frightened about 

Marie-Louise I dare say it was only my fancy It was a 
stupid nsk to take all the same 

John Perhaps Why did you look so devilish pretty^ 

Marie-Louise Oughtn't you to be getting back to your 
wretched patients^ 

John I suppose so Will you stop and see Constance^ 5 

Marie-Louise I may as well It would look rather odd if I 
went away without saying how d’you do to her 

John [Going ] Til leave you then And don’t worry 

Marie-Louise I won’t I dare say it was only a guilty 
conscience I’ll go and have my hair washed 

[As John is about to go, Martha comes tn followed by 
Bernard 

Martha [With an almost exaggerated cordiality ] I had no 
idea you were here, Marie-Louise 

Marie-Louise It’s not very important 

Martha I was just writing letters, waiting for mother, and 
Bernard’s only just told me 

Marie-Louise I wanted to see John about something 

Martha 1 hope you haven’t got anything the matter with 
you, darling 

Marie-Louise No Mortimer’s been looking rather run- 
down lately and I want John to persuade him to take a 
holiday 

Martha Oh, I should have thought he’d be more likely to 
take a physician’s advice than a surgeon’s in a thing like 
that 

Marie-Louise He’s got a tremendous belief in John, you 
know 

Martha In which I’m sure he’s justified John is so very 
reliable. 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE I37 

John What can I do for you, Martha- 1 If you’d like me to 
cut out an appendix or a few tonsils I shall be happy to 
oblige you 

Martha My dear John, you’ve only left me the barest 
necessities of existence as it is I don’t think I could 
manage with anything less than I have 
John My dear, as long as a woman has a leg to stand on she 
need not despair of exciting her surgeon’s sympathy and 
interest 

[Constance corns m with Mrs Culver 
Marte-Louise [Kissmg her ] Darling* 

Constance How is your knee, still slipping^ 

Marie-Louise It always gives me more or less trouble, you 
know 

Constance Yes, of course I think you’re very patient In 
your place I should be furious with John Of course I 
would never dream of consulting him if I had anything 
the matter with me 

Mrs Culver I’m sorry I’ve been so long, Martha Have 
you been very impatient^ 

Martha No, I’ve been passing the time very pleasantly 
Mrs Culver For others, darling, or only for yourself ^ 
Constance I met mother on the stairs and she came up 
with me while I changed my hat Bernard is taking me 
down to Ranelagh 
John Oh, that’ll be jolly 
Bernard We shall be dreadfully late 
Constance Does it matter? 

Bernard No 

[Bentley corns m with a card on a small satve ana takes 
it to Constance She looks at the card and hesitates 
Constance How very odd 
John What’s the matter, Constance? 


9 



ACT II 


138 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance Nothing [For an instant she reflects ] Is he 
downstairs? 

Bentley Yes, madam 

Constance I don’t know why he should send up a card 
Show him up 

Bentley Very good, madam, 

[Exit Bentley 

John Who is it, Constance? 

Constance Come and sit down, Marie-Louise 
Marie-Louise I must go and so must you 
Constance There’s plenty of time Do you like this hat? 
Marie-Louise Yes I think it’s sweet 
Constance What are you doing here, John? Haven’t you 
got any patients to-day? 

John Yes, there are two or three waiting I’m just going 
down As a matter of fact I thought I deserved^ cigarette 
[He puts his hand to his hip poc ket ] J &gfig, I’ve mislai^my 
cigarette-case You B^rvSETfseen it about, Constanc J 
Constance No, I haven’t 

John I looked for it everywhere this morning I can’t 
think where I left it I must ring up the nursing-home 
and ask if I left it there 
Constance I hope you haven’t lost it 
John Oh, no I’m sure I haven’t I’ve just put it some- 
where 

[The door opens and Bentley announces the visitor 
Bentley Mr Mortimer Durham 
Marie-Louise [Startled out ojf her wits ] OhI 
Constance [j Quickly, seizing her wrist ] Sit still, you fool 

[Mortimer Durham corns in He is a stoutish biggish man 
of about forty , with a red face and an irascible manner At the 
moment he ts a prey to violent emotion Bentley goes out ] 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE I39 

Hulloa, Mortimer What are you doing in these parts at 
this hour? Why on earth did you send up a card^ 

[He stops and looks around 
Marie-Louise What is the matter, Mortimer^ 

Mortimer [To Constance, with difficulty restraining his 
fury ] I thought you might like to know that your 
husband is my wife's lover 
Marie-Louise Morty! 

Constance [Keeping a firm hand on Marie-Louise and very 
coolly to Mortimer ] OfcP What makes you think that ? 
Mortimer [Taking a gold cigarette-case out of his pocket ] Do 
you recognize this? I found it under my wife's pillow 
last night 

Constance Oh, I am relieved I couldn’t make out where 
I’d left it [Taking it from him ] Thank you so much 
Mortimer [Angrily ] It’s not yours 
Constance Indeed it is I was sitting on Marie-Louise’s 
bed and I must have slipped it under the pillow without 
thinking 

Mortimer It has John’s initials on it 
Constance I know It was presented to him by a grateful 
patient and I thought it much too nice for him, so I just 
took it 

Mortimer What sort of fool do you take me for, Constance? 
Constance My dear Morty, why should I say it was my 
cigarette-case if it wasn’t^ 

Mortimer They had dinner together 
Constance My poor Morty, I know that You were going 
to a City banquet or something, and Marie-Louise rang 
up and asked if she might come and take pot-luck witn us 
Mortimer Do you mean to say she dined here? 

Constance Isn’t that what she told vou^ 

Mortimer Yes 



140 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT II 

Constance It’s quite easy to prove If you won't take my 
word for it we can ring for the butler, and you can ask 
httn yourself Ring the bell, John, will you? 

Mortimer [Uneasily ] No, don’t do that If you give me 
your word, of course I must take it 

Constance That’s very land of you I’m grateful to you 
for not exposing me to the humiliation of making my 
butler corroborate my statement 

Mortimer If Mane-Louise was dining here why were you 
sittingonher bed? 

Constance John had to go out and do an operation, and 
Mane-Louise wanted to show me the things she’d got 
from Pans, so I walked round to your house It was a 
lovely night You remember that, don’t you? 

Mortimer Damn it, I’ve got more important things to do 
than look at the night 

Constance We tried them all on and then we were rather 
tired, so Marie-Louise got into bed and I sat down and 
we talked 

Mortimer If you were tired why didn’t you go home and 
go to bed 

Constance John had promised to come round and fetch 
me 

Mortimer And did he? At what time did he come? 

John I couldn’t manage it The operation took much 
longer than I expected It was one of those cases where 
when you once start cutting you really don’t know 
where to stop You know the sort of thing, don’t you, 
Mortimer? 

Mortimer No, I don’t How the devil should I? 

Constance All that is neither here nor there This is a 
terrible accusation you’ve made against John and Mane- 
Louise and I’m very much upset But I will remain 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE 141 

perfectly calm till I’ve heard everything Now let me 
have your proofs 

Mortimer My proofs^ What d’you mean^ The cigarette- 
case When I found the cigarette-case I naturally put two 
and two together 

Constance [With her eyes flashing ] I quite understand, but 
why did you make them five^ 

Mortimer [Emphatically, tn order not to show that he is 
wavering ] It isn’t possible that I should have made a 
mistake 

Constance Even the richest of us may err I remember 
when Mr Pierpont Morgan died, he was found to own 
seven million dollars of worthless secunties 

Mortimer [ Uneasily ] You don’t know what a shock it 
was, Constance I had the most implicit confidence in 
Marie-Louise I was knocked endways I’ve been 
brooding over it ever since till I was afraid I should go 
mad 

Constance And do you mean to say that you’ve come here 
and made a fearful scene just because you found my 
cigarette-case in Mane-Louise’s roonP I can’t believe it 
You’re a man of the world and a business man You’re 
extremely intelligent Surely you have something to go 
upon You must be holding something back Don’t be 
afraid of hurting my feelings You’ve said so much now 
that I must insist on your saying everything I want the 
truth and the whole truth 

[There is a pause Mortimer looks from Maree- 
Louise, who is quietly weeping, to Constance, with 
the utmost bewilderment 

Mortimer I’m afraid I’ve made a damned fool of myself 

Constance I’m afraid you have 

Mortimer I’m awfully sorry, Constance I beg your 
pardon 



ACT II 


142 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance Oh, don't bother about me You've exposed 
me to the most bitter humiliation You've sown seeds of 
distrust between me and John which can never be 

[She looks for a word 

Mrs Culver [Supplying it] Fertilized 

Constance [Ignoring it] Upiooted But I don’t matter 
It's Marie-Louise’s pardon you must beg 

Mortimer [Humbly] Marie-Louise 

Marie-Louise Don’t touch me Don’t come near me 

Mortimer [To Constance, miserably] You know what 
jealousy is 

Constance Certainly not I think it's a most ugly and 
despicable vice 

Mortimer [To M irie-Louise ] Mane-Louise, I’m sorry 
Won’t you forgive me^ 

Marie-Louise You’ve insulted me before all my friends 
You know how devotedly I love Constance You might 
have accused me of having an affair with anyone else — 
but not John 

Constance Not her greatest friend’s husband The 
milkman or the dustman if you like, but not her greatest 
friend’s husband 

Mortimer I’ve been a perfect swine I don’t know what 
came over me I really wasn’t responsible for my 
actions 

Marie-Louise I’ve loved you all these years No one has 
ever loved you as I’ve loved you Oh, it's cruel, cruel 

Mortimer Come away, darling I can’t say here what I 
want to say 

Marie-Louise No, no, no 

Constance [Putting her hand on his arm , gently ] I think 
you'd better leave her here for a little while, Morty I’ll 
talk to her when you’ve gone She’s naturally upset A 
sensitive little thing like that 



ACT n 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


143 


Mortimer We’re dining with the Vancouvers at 8 1 5 

Constance For eighty-thirty I promise I’ll send her home 
in good time to dress 

Mortimer She’ll give me another chance^ 

Constance Yes, yes 

Mortimer I’d do anything in the world for her [Con- 
stance puts her fingers to her lips and then points significantly 
to the pearl chain she is wearing For a second Mortimer does 
not understand , but as soon as her notion dawns on him he gives a 
pleased nod] You’re the cleverest woman in the world 
[As he goes out he stops and holds out his hand to John ] Will 
you shake hands with me, old man? I made a mistake and 
I’m man enough to acknowledge it 

John [Very cordially] Not at all, old boy I quite agree that 
it did look fishy, the cigarette-case If I’d dreamt that 
Constance was going to leave an expensive thing like 
that lying about all over the place, I’m hanged if I’d have 
let hef pinch it 

Mortimer You don’t know what a weight it is off my mind 
I felt a hundred when I came here, and now I feel like a 
two-year-old 

[He goes out The moment the door is closed behind him 
there is a general change in every attitude The 
tension disappears and there is a feeling of relief 

John Constance, you’re a brick I shall never forget this 
Never, so long as I live And by George, what presence 
of mind you showed I went hot and cold all over, and 
you never batted an eye-lash 

Constance By the way, here is your cigarette-case You’d 
better have a ring made and hang it on your key-chain 

John No, no Keep it I’m too old to take these risks* 

Constance By the way, did anyone see you go into 
Morty’s house last night? 



144 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT II 

John No, we let ourselves in with Marie-Louise's latch 
key 

Constance That's all right then If Mortimer asks the 
servants they can tell him nothing I had to take that 
chance 

Marie-Louise [With a little gesture of ashamed dismay ] Oh, 
Constance, what must you think of me? 

Constance P Exactly the same as I thought before I 
think you're sweet, Marie-Louise 

Marie-Louise You have every right to be angry with me 

Constance Perhaps, but not the inclination 

Marie-Louise Oh, it’s not true I've treated you shame- 
fully You've made me feel such a pig And you had 
your chance to get back on me and you didn't take it 
I'm so ashamed 

Constance [Amused] Because you've been having an 
affair with John, or because you've been found ouP 

Marie-Louise Oh, Constance, don't be heartless Say 
anything you like, curse me, stamp on me, but don't 
smile at me I'm in a terrible position 

Constance And you want me to make a scene I know and 
I sympathize [ Very calmly ] Bu t the fact is that Mortimer 
told me nothing I didn't know before 

Marie-Louise [Aghast ] Do you mean to say that you've 
known all along^ 

Constance All along, darling I've been spending the last 
six months in a desperate effort to prevent my friends and 
relations from telling me your ghastly secret It's been 
very difficult sometimes Often mother's profound under- 
standing of life, Martha's passion for truth at any price, 
and Barbara's silent sympathy, have almost worn me 
down But until to-day the t's were not definitely crossed 
nor the l's distinctly dotted, and I was able to ignore the 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE 145 

facts that were staring at me — rather rudely, I must say — 
in the face 

Marie-Louise But why, why 5 It’s not human Why 
didn’t you do anything 5 

Constance That, darling, is my affair 

Marie-Louise [Thinking she understands ] Oh, I see 

Constance [Rather tartly ] No, you don’t I have always 
been absolutely faithful to John I have not winked at 
your intrigue in order to cover my own 

Marie-Louise [Beginning to he a little put out] I almost think 
you’ve been laughing at me up your sleeve all the time 

Constance [Good-humouredly ] Oh, my dear, you mustn’t be 
offended just because I’ve taken away from you the 
satisfaction of thinking that you have been deceiving me 
all these months I should hate you to think me capable 
of an intentional meanness 

Marie-Louise My head’s gomg round and round 

Constance Such a pretty head, too Why don’t you go 
and lie down 5 You want to look your best if you’re 
dining with the Vancouvers 

Marie-Louise I wonder where Mortimer is 5 

Constance You know that pearl necklace you showed me 
the other day and you said that Mortimer thought it cost 
a lot of money — well, he’s gone to Cartier’s to buy it for 
you 

Marie-Louise [ Excitedly ] Oh, Constance, do you think he 
has 5 

Constance I think all men are bom with the knowledge 
that when they have wounded a woman’s soul — and our 
souls are easily wounded — the only cure is a trifling, but 
expensive jewel 

Marie-Louise Do you think he’ll have the sense to bring it 
home with him so that I can wear it to-night? 



ACT II 


146 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance Oh, my dear, don’t be such a fool as to accept it 
with alacrity Remember that Mortimer has grievously 
insulted you, he’s made the most shocking accusation 
that a man can make against his wife, he’s trampled on 
your love and now he’s destroyed your trust in him 

Marie-Louise Oh, how right you are, Constance 

Constance Surely I need not tell you what to do Refuse 
to speak to him, but never let him get a word of defence 
in edgeways Cry enough to make him feel what a brute 
he is, but not enough to make your eyes swell Say 
you’ll leave him and run sobbing to the door, but take 
care to let him stop you before you open it Repeat 
yourself Say the same thing over and over again — it 
wears them down — and if he answers you take no notice, 
but just say it again And at last when you’ve reduced 
him to desperation, when his head is aching as though it 
would split, when he’s sweating at every pore, when he’s 
harassed and miserable and haggard and broken — then 
consent as an unmerited favour, as a sign of your 
forgiving temper and the sweetness of your nature, to 
accept, no, don’t consent, deign to accept the pearl 
necklace for which the wretch has just paid ten thousand 
pounds 

Marie-Louise [With peculiar satisfaction ] Twelve, darling 

Constance And don’t thank him That wouldn’t be 
playing the game Let him thank you for the favour you 
do him in allowing him to make you a paltry gift Have 
you got your car here? 

Marie-Louise No, I was in such a state when I came I took 
a taxi 

Constance John, do take Marie-Louise down and put her 
in a taxi 

John All nght 

Marie-Louise* No, not John I couldn’t After all, I have 
some delicacy 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE 147 

Constance Oh, have yoiP Well, let Bernard go 

Bernard I shall be pleased. 

Constance [To Bernard ] But come back, won’t you* 

Bernard Certainly. 

Marie-Louise [Kissing Constance ] This has been a lesson 
to me, darling I’m not a fool, Constance I can learn 

Constance At least prudence, I hope 

[Marie-Louise ^.r out followed by Bernard 
Kersal 

John How did you guess that Marie-Louise had said she 
was dining here^ 

Constance She’s too crafty a woman to invent a new he 
when an old one will serve 

John It would have been awkward if Mortimer had 
insisted on asking Bentley if it was true 

Constance I knew he wouldn’t dare It’s only if a man’s a 
gentleman that he won’t hesitate to do an ungentlemanly 
thing Mortimer is on the boundary line and it makes 
him careful 

Martha [Significantly ] Don’t you imagine your patients 
are growing a tnfie restless, John? 

John I like to keep them waiting They grow more and 
more nervous as the minutes pass and when I recommend 
an operation that will cost them two hundred and fifty 
pounds they are too shaken to protest 

Martha [Pursing her lips ] I can’t imagine you’ll very much 
like to hear what I’m determined to say to Constance 

John It’s because I shrewedly suspect that you have some 
very unpleasant things to say about me that I am pre- 
pared reluctantly to neglect the call of duty and listen to 
you with my own ears. 

Constance She’s been exercising miracles of restraint for 



148 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT II 

the last three months, John I think she has a right to let 
herself go now 

John If she’s suffering from suppressed desires she’s come 
to the wrong establishment She ought to go to a 
psycho-analyst 

Martha I’ve only got one thing to say, John, and I’m 
perfectly willing that you should hear it [To Con- 
stance] I don’t know what your reasons were for 
shielding that abominable woman I can only sup- 
pose you wanted to avoid more scandal than was 
necessary 

Mrs Culver [Interrupting ] Before you go any further, mj 
dear, you must let me put my word in [To Constance ] 
My dear child, I beg you not to decide anything in a 
hurry We must all think things over First of all you 
must listen to what John has to say for himself 

Martha What can he have to say for himself? 

Constance [Ironically ] What indeed 5 

John Not the right thing anyway I’ve seen too much of 
married life 

Constance [. Interrupting , with a smile ] Let us be just Other 
people’s rather than your own 

John [Going on ] To imagine that even the Archangel 
Gabriel could say the right thing 

Constance I’ve no reason, however, to suppose that the 
Archangel Gabriel could ever find himself in such a 
predicament 

John I’m for it and I’m prepared to take what’s coming 
to me 

Constance [To the world tn general ] No man could say 
handsomer than that 

John I’m expecting you to make a scene, Constance It’s 
your right and your privilege I’m willing to bear it 
Give me hell I deserve it Drag me up and down the 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE 149 

room by the hair of the head Kick me in the face 
Stamp on me I’ll grovel I’ll eat the dust My name 
is mud Mud 

Constance My poor John, what is there to make a scene 
about? 

John I know how badly I’ve treated you I had a wife 
who was good, loving and faithful, devoted to my 
interests, a perfect mother and an excellent housekeeper 
A woman ten times too good for me If I’d had the 
smallest spark of decency I couldn’t have treated you 
like this I haven’t a word to say for myself 

Martha [ Interrupting him ] You’ve humiliated her to all 
her friends 

John I’ve behaved neither like a gentleman nor a 
sportsman 

Martha Your conduct is inexcusable 

John I haven’t a leg to stand on 

Martha Even if you didn’t love her, you might have 
treated her with respect 

John I’ve been as heartless as a crocodile and as un- 
scrupulous as a typhoid bacillus 

Constance Between you, of course, you’re leaving me very 
little to say 

Martha There is nothing to say You’re quite right This 
is the sort of occasion when it’s beneath a woman’s 
dignity to make a scene It just shows how little John 
knows women to think that you could demean yourself 
to vulgar abuse [To John ] I suppose you’ll have the 
decency to put no obstacle m the way of Constance’s 
getting her freedom 

Mrs Culver Oh, Constance, you’re not going to divorce 
him? 

Martha Mother, you’re so weak How can she go on 
living with a man for whom she has no respect? What 



150 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT II 

would her life be with this creature whom she can only 
mistrust and despise^ Besides, you have to think of 
their child How can Constance allow her daughter to 
be contaminated by the society of a person of this 
character* 

Constance John has always been an excellent father Let 
us give the devil his due 

Mrs Culver Don't be too hard, darling I can understand 
that at the moment you feel bitter, but it would be very 
sad if you let your bitterness warp your judgment 

Constance I don't feel in the least bitter I wish I looked 
as sweet as I feel 

Mrs Culver You can't deceive a mother, my dear I know 
the angry resentment that you feel Under the unfor- 
tunate circumstances it's only too natural 

Constance When I look into my heart I can't find a trace 
of resentment, except perhaps for John's being so stupid 
as to let himself be found out 

John Let me say this in justification for myself, Constance 
I did my little best to prevent it Angels could do no 
more 

Constance And angels presumably have not the pernicious 
habit of smoking straight-cut cigarettes 

John When you once get the taste for them, you prefer 
them to gippies 

Mrs Culver Don't be cynical, darling That is the worst 
way to ease an aching heart Come to your mother's 
arms, my dear, and let us have a good cry together. 
And then you'll feel better 

Constance It's sweet of you, mother, but honestly I 
couldn't squeeze a tear out of my eyes if my life depended 
on it 

Mrs Culver And don't be too hard Of course John is to 
blame I admit that He's been very, very naughty But 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE IJI 

men are weak and women are so unscrupulous I’m sure 
he’s sorry for all the pain he’s caused you 

Martha What puzzles me is that you didn’t do something 
the moment you discovered that John was having an 
affair 

Constance To tell you the truth, I thought it no business 
of mine 

Martha [Indignantly ] Aren’t you his wife^ 

Constance J ohn and I are very lucky people Our marriage 
has been ideal 

Martha How can you say thaP 

Constance For five years we adored each other That’s 
much longer than most people do Our honeymoon 
lasted five years and then we had a most extraordinary 
stroke of luck we ceased to be in love with one another 
simultaneously 

John I protest, Constance I’ve never ceased to be abso- 
lutely devoted to you 

Constance I never said you had, darling I’m convinced 
of it I’ve never ceased to be devoted to you We’ve 
shared one another’s interests, we’ve loved to be to- 
gether, I’ve exulted in your success and you’ve trembled 
in my illness We’ve laughed at the same jokes and 
sighed over the same worries I don’t know any couple 
that’s been bound together by a more genuine affection 
But honestly, for the last ten years have you been in 
love with me? 

John You can’t expect a man who’s been married for 
fifteen years 

Constance My dear, I’m not asking for excuses I’m only 
asking for a plain answer. 

John In the long run I enjoy your society much more than 
anybody else’s There’s no one I like so much as you 



15 1 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT tl 

You’re the prettiest woman I’ve ever known and I shall 
say the same when you’re a hundred 
Constance But does your heart leap into your mouth when 
you hear my footstep on the stairs, and when I come 
into the room, is your first impulse to catch me in your 
manly arms 7 I haven’t noticed it 
John I don’t want to make a fool of myself 
Constance Then I think you’ve answered my question 
You’re no more in love with me than I am with you 
John You never said a word of this before 
Constance I think most married couples tell one another 
far too much There are some things that two people 
may know very well, but which it’s much more tactful 
for them to pretend they don’t 
John How did you find out 7 

Constance I’ll tell you One night as we were dancing 
together, all at once I noticed that we weren’t keeping 
such good step as we generally did It was because my 
mind was wandering I was thinking how it would suit 
me to do my hair like a woman who was dancing along- 
side of us Then I looked at you and I saw you were 
thinking what pretty legs she’d got I suddenly realized 
that you weren’t in love with me any more and at the 
same moment I realized that it was a relief, because i 
wasn’t m love with you 

John I must say it never occurred to me for a moment 
Constance I know A man thinks it quite natural that he 
should fall out of love with a woman, but it never strikes 
him for a moment that a woman can do anything so 
unnatural as to fall out of love with him Don’t be upset 
at that, darling, that is one of the charming limitations 
of your sex 

Martha Do you mean mother and me to understand that 
since then John has been having one affair after another 
and you haven’t turned a hair 7 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE IJ3 

Constance Since this is the first time he’s been found out, 
let us give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that 
till now he has never strayed from the strict and narrow 
path You’re not angry with me, Johm* 

John No, darling, not angry But lama little taken aback 
I think you’ve been making rather a damned fool of me 
It never struck me that your feelings for me had changed 
so much You can’t expect me to like it 

Constance Oh, come now, you must be reasonable You 
surely wouldn’t wish me to have languished for all these 
years in a hopeless passion for you when you had nothing 
to give me in return but friendship and affection Think 
what a bore it is to have someone in love with you whom 
you’re not in love with 

John I can’t conceive of your ever being a bore, Constance 

Constance f Kissing her hand to him ] Don’t you realize that 
we must thank our lucky stars^ We are the favoured of 
the gods I shall never forget those five years of exquisite 
happiness you gave me when I loved you, and I shall 
never cease to be gratefu] to you, not because you loved 
me, but because you inspired me with love Our love 
never degenerated into weariness Because we ceased 
loving one another at the very same moment we never 
had to put up with quarrels and reproaches, recrimina- 
tions and all the other paraphernalia of a passion that 
has ceased on one side and is still alive and eager on the 
other Our love was like a cross-word puzzle m which 
we both hit upon the last word at the same moment 
That is why our lives since have been so happy, that 
is why ours is a perfect marriage 

Martha Do you mean to say that it meant nothing to you 
when you found out that John was carrying on with 
Mane-Louise^ 

Constance Human nature is very imperfect I’m afraid I 
must admit that at the first moment I was vexed But 


1 



154 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT II 

only at the first moment Then I reflected that it was 
most unreasonable to be angry with John for giving to 
another something that I had no use for That would 
be too much like a dog in the manger And then I was 
fond enough of John to be willing that he should be 
happy in his own way And if he was going to indulge 
in an intrigue isn’t that the proper phrase, Johrn* 

John I have not yet made up my mind whether it really 
is an indulgence 

Constance Then it was much better that the object of his 
affections should be so intimate a friend of mine that 
I could keep a maternal eye on him 

John Really, Constance 

Constance Mane-Louise is very pretty so that my self- 
esteem was not offended, and so rich that it was certain 
John would have no reason to squander money on her 
to the inconvenience of myself She’s not clever enough 
to acquire any ascendancy over him, and so long as I 
kept his heart I was quite willing that she should have 
his senses If you wanted to deceive me, John, I couldn’t 
have chosen anyone with whom I would more willingly 
be deceived than Mane-Louise 

John I don’t gather that you have been very grossly 
deceived* darling You have such penetration that when 
you look at me I feel as though I were shivering without 
a stitch of clo t hing on 

Mrs Culver I don’t approve of your attitude, Constance 
In my day when a young wife discovered that her 
husband had been deceiving her, she burst into a flood 
of tears and went to stay with her mother for three weeks, 
not returning to her husband till he had been brought 
to a proper state of abjection and repentance 

Martha Are we to undertsand, then, that you are not 
going to divorce John? 



ACT II 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


155 


Constance You know, I can never see why a woman 
should give up a comfortable home, a considerable part 
of her income and the advantage of having a man about 
to do all the tiresome and disagreeable things for her, 
because he has been unfaithful to her She’s merely 
cutting off her nose to spite her face 

Martha I am at a loss for words I cannot conceive how a 
woman of any spirit can sit down and allow her husband 
to make a perfect damned fool of her 

Constance You’ve been very stupid, my poor John In 
the ordinary affairs of life stupidity is much more tire- 
some than wickedness You can mend the vicious, 
but what in Heaven’s name are you to do with the 
foolish^ 

John I’ve been a fool, Constance I know it, but I’m 
capable of learning by experience, so I can’t be a damned 
fool 

Constance You mean that in the future you’ll be more 
careful to cover your tracks^ 

Mrs Culver Oh, no, Constance, he means that this has 
been a lesson to him, and that in the future you’ll have 
no cause for complaint 

Constance I’ve always been given to understand that men 
only abandon their vices when advancing years have 
made them a burden rather than a pleasure John, I’m 
happy to say, is still in the flower of his age I suppose 
you give yourself another fifteen years, John, don’t you^ 

John Really, Constance, I don’t know what you mean 
The things you say sometimes are positively embarrass- 
ing 

Constance I think at all events we may take it thar Mane- 
Louise will have more than one successor 

John Constance, I give you my word of honour • . • 



ACT II 


156 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance [Interrupting] That is the only gift you can 
make for which I can find no use You see, so long as 
I was able to pretend a blissful ignorance of your 
goings-on we could all be perfectly happy You were 
enjoying yourself and I received a lot of sympathy as 
the outraged wife But now I do see that the position 
is very difficult You have put me in a position that is 
neither elegant nor dignified 
John Fm awfully sorry, Constance 
Martha You’re going to leave him? * 

Constance No, I’m not going to leave him Joht^ /ou 
remember that Barbara offered to take me into her 
business ? I refused Well, I’ve changed my mind and 
I’m going to accept 
John But why^ I don’t see your point 
Constance I’m not prepaied any more to be entirely 
dependent upon you, John 

John But, my dear, every thing I earn is at your disposal 
It’s a pleasure for me to provide for your wants Heaven 
knows, they’re not very great 
Constance I know Come, John, I’ve been very reason- 
able, haven’t P Don’t try and thwart me when I want 
to do something on which I’ve set my heart 

[There is an mstanfs pause 
John I don’t understand But if you put it like that, I 
haven’t a word to say Of course, you must do exactly 
as you wish 

Constance That’s a dear Now go back to your patients 
or else I shall have to keep you as well as myself 
John Will you give me a kiss^ 

Constance Why noP 

John [Kissing her ] It’s peace between us^ 

Constance Peace and good-will [John goes out ] He is 
rather sweet, isn’t he^ 



ACT II 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


157 


Mrs Culver What have you got on your mind, Constance^ 5 

Constance I, mother* 5 ]T easing her ] What do you suspect^ 

Mrs Culver I don’t like the look of you 

Constance I’m sorry for that Most people find me far 
from plain 

Mrs Culver You’ve got some deviltry in mind, but for 
the life of me I can’t guess it 

Martha I can’t see what you expect to get out of working 
with Barbara 

Constance Between a thousand and fifteen hundred a year, 
I believe 

Martha I wasn’t thinking of the money, and you know it 

Constance I’m tired of being the modern wife 

Martha What do you mean by the modern wife^ 

Constance A prostitute who doesn’t deliver the goods 

Mrs Culver My dear, what would your father say if he 
heard you say such things ^ 

Constance Darling, need we conjecture the remarks of a 
gentleman who’s been dead for five and twenty years p 
Had he any gift for repartee^ 

Mrs Culver None whatever He was good, but he was 
stupid That is why the gods loved him and he died 
young 

[Bernard Kersal opens the door and looks in 

Bernard May I come in? 

Constance Oh, there you are I wondered what had 
become of you 

Bernard When Mane-Louise saw my car at the dooi 
she asked me to drive her I couldn’t very well 
refuse 

Constance So you took her home 



ACT II 


158 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Bernard No, she said she was in such a state she must 
have her hair washed I drove her to a place in Bond 
Street 

Constance And what did she say to you* 

Bernard She said, I don’t know what you must think 
of me 

Constance That is what most women say to a man when 
his opinion doesn’t matter two straws to them And 
what did you answer* 

Bernard Well, I said, I prefer not to offer an opinion on 
a matter which is no business of mine 

Constance Dear Bernard, one of the things I like most in 
you is that you always remain so perfectly in character 
If the heavens fell you would still remain the perfect 
English gentleman 

Bernard I thought it the most tactful thing to say 

Constance Well, mother, I won’t detain you any longer 
I know that you and Martha have a thousand things 
to do 

Mrs Culver I’m glad you reminded me Come, Martha 
Good-bye, darling Good-bye, Mr Kersal 

Bernard Good-bye 

Constance [To Martha ] Good-bye, dear Thank you for 
all your sympathy You’ve been a great help in my 
hour of need 

Martha I don’t understand and it’s no good saying I do 

Constance Bless you [Mrs Culver and Martha go out 
Bernard closes the door after them ] Shall we be very 
late* 

Bernard So late that it doesn’t matter if we’re a little later 
I have something important to say to you * 

Constance [T easing hm a little ] Important to me or 
important to you* 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE I59 

Bernard I can’t tell you how distressed I was at that 
terrible scene 

Constance Oh, didn’t you think it had its lighter moments 5 
Bernard It’s only this afternoon I learned the truth, and 
then I never imagined for a moment that you knew it, 
too I can’t tell you how brave I think it of you to have 
borne all this torture with a smiling face If I admired 
you before, I admire you ten times more now 
Constance You’re very sweet, Bernard 
Bernard My heart bleeds when I think of what you’ve 
gone through 

Constance It’s not a very good plan to take other people’s 
misfortunes too much to heart 
Bernard Hardly an hour ago I told you that if ever you 
wanted me I was only too anxious to do anything in 
the world for you I little thought then that the time 
would come so soon There’s no reason now why I 
shouldn’t tell you of the love that consumes me Oh, 
Constance, come to me You know that if things were 
as I thought they were between you and John nothing 
would have induced me to say a word But now he has 
no longer any claims on you He doesn’t love you Why 
should you go on wasting your life with a man who 
is capable of exposing you to all this humiliation 5 You 
know how long and tenderly I’ve loved you You can 
trust yourself to me I’ll give my whole life to making 
you forget the anguish you’ve endured Will you marry 
me, Constance 5 

Constance My dear, John may have behaved very badly, 
but he’s still my husband 

Bernard^ Only in name You’ve done everything in your 
power to save a scandal and now if you ask him to let 
himself be divorced he’s bound to consent 
Constance Do you really think John has behaved so very 
badly to me? 



ACT II 


l6o THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Bernard [Asfomshed] You don’t mean to say that vou 
have any doubts in your mind about his relationsnip 
with Marie-Louise 5 
Constance None 

Bernard Then what in God’s name do you meam* 
Constance My dear Bernard, have you ever considered 
what marriage is among well-to-do people^ In the 
working classes a woman cooks her husband’s dinner, 
washes for him and darns his socks She looks after the 
children and makes their clothes She gives good value 
for the money she costs But what is a wife in our class^ 
Her house is managed by servants, nurses look after 
her children, if she has resigned herself to having any, 
and as soon as they are old enough she packs them off 
to school Let us face it, she is no more than the mistress 
of a man of whose desire she has taken advantage to 
insist on a legal ceremony that will prevent him from 
discarding her when his desire has ceased 
Bernard She’s also his companion and his helpmate 
Constance My dear, any sensible man would sooner play 
bridge at his club than with his wife, and he’d always 
rather play golf with a man than with a woman A paid 
secretary is a far better helpmate than a loving spouse 
When all is said and done, the modern wife is nothing 
but a parasite 

Bernard I don’t agree with you 

Constance You see, my poor friend, you are in love and 
your judgment is confused 
Bernard I don’t understand what you mean 
Constance John gives me board and lodging, money for 
my clothes and my amusements, a car to drive in and a 
certain position in the world He’s bound to do all that 
because fifteen years ago he was madly in love with me, 
and he undertook it, though, if you’d asked him, he 
would certainly have acknowledged that nothing is so 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE l6l 

fleeting as that particular form of madness called love 
It was either verv generous of him or very imprudent 
Don’t you think it would be rather shabby of me to 
take advantage now of his generosity or his want of 
foresight? 

Bernard In what way? 

Constance He paid a very high price for something that 
he couldn’t get cheaper He no longer wants that Why 
should I resent it? I know as well as anybody else that 
desire is fleeting It comes and goes and no man can 
understand why The only thing that’s certain is that 
when it’s gone it’s gone forever So long as John con- 
tinues to provide for me what right have I to complain 
that he is unfaithful to me? He bought a toy, and if he 
no longer wants to play with it, why should he? He 
paid for it 

Bernard That might be all tight if a man had only to think 
about himself What about the woman? 

Constance I don’t think you need waste too much sym- 
pathy on her Like ninety-nine girls out of a hundred, 
when I married I looked upon it as the only easy, 
honourable and lucrative calling open to me When the 
average woman who has been married for fifteen years 
discovers her husband’s infidelity it is not her heart that 
is wounded but her vanity If she had any sense, she 
would regard it merely as one of the necessary incon- 
veniences of an otherwise pleasant profession 

Bernard Then the long and short of it is that you don’t 
love me 

Constance You think that my principles are all moon- 
shine? 

Bernard I don’t think they would have much influence if 
you were as crazy about me as I am about you Do 
you still love John? 



ACT n 


1 6z THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance Fm very fond of him, he makes me laugh, and 
we get on together like a house on fire, but I’m not 
in love with him 

Bernard And is that enough for you? Isn’t the future 
sometimes a tnfie desolate? Don’t you want love? 

[A pause She gives him a long reflective look 

Constance [Charmingly ] If I did I should come to you for 
it, Bernard 

Bernard Constance, what do you mean? Is it possible that 
you could ever care for me? Oh, my darling, I worship 
the ground you tread on 

[He seizes her in his arms and kisses her passionately 

Constance [Releasing herself] Oh, my dear, don’t be so 
sudden I should despise myself entirely if I were un- 
faithful to John so long as I am entirely dependent on 
him 

Bernard But if you love me? 

Constance I never said I did But even if I did, so long as 
John provides me with all the necessities of existence I 
wouldn’t be unfaithful It all comes down to the 
economic situation He has bought my fidelity and I 
should be worse than a harlot if I took the price he paid 
and did not deliver the goods 

Bernard Do you mean to say there’s no hope for me at 
all? 

Constance* The only hope before you at the moment is 
to start for Ranelagh before the game is over 

Bernard Do you still want to go? 

Constance. Yes 

Bernard Very well [With a burst of passion ] I love you 

Constance Then go down and start up the car, put a spot 
of oil in the radiator or something, and I’ll join you in 
a minute I want to telephone. 



ACT II THE CONSTANT WIFE 163 

Bernard Very well 

[He goes out Constance takes up the telephone 
Constance Mayfair 2646 Barbara? It’s Constance 
That offer you made me a fortnight ago — is it still open^ 
Well, I want to accept it No, no, nothing has 
happened John is very well He’s always sweet, you 
know It’s only that I want to earn my own living 
When can I start^ The sooner the better 

end of the second act 



THE THIRD ACT 


The scene is stiU the same A year has passed It is afternoon 

Constance is seated at a desk writing letters The Butler 
shows m Barbara Fawcett and Martha 

BENTLtf Mrs Fawcett and Miss Culver 

Constance OhI Sit down. I’m just finishing a note 

Barbara We met on the doorstep 

Martha I thought Fd just look round and see if there was 
any thing I could do to help you before you start 

Constance That’s very nice of you, Martha I really don’t 
t hink there is Fm packed and ready, and for once 1 
don’t believe I’ve forgotten one of the things I shan’t 
want 

Barbara I felt I must run in to say good-bye to you 

Constance Now, my dear, you mustn’t neglect your work 
the moment my back is turned 

Barbara Well, it’s partly the work that’s brought me An 
order has just come in for a new house and they want 
an Italian room 

Constance I don’t like that look in your beady eye, 
Barbara 

Barbara Well, it struck me that as you’re going to Italy 
you might go round the shops and buy any nice pieces 
that you can find 

Constance Perish the thought I’ve worked like a dog 
*or a year and last night at six o’clock I downed tools 
i stripped ofl my grimy overalls, wrung the sweat from 
164 



ACT m THE CONSTANT WIFE 1 65 

my honest brow and scrubbed my horny hands You 
said I could take six weeks’ holiday 

Barbara I admit that you’ve thoroughly earned it 

Constance When I closed the shop-door behind me, I 
ceased to be a British working-man and resumed the 
position of a perfect English lady 

Martha I never saw you in such spirits 

Constance Something accomplished, something done But 
what I was comm g to was this for the next six weeks 
I refuse to give a moment’s thought to bath-rooms or 
wall-papers, kitchen sinks, scullery floors, curtains, 
cushions and refrigerators 

Barbara I wasn’t asking you to I only wanted y on to get 
some of that painted Italian furniture and a few mirrors 

Constance No, I’ve worked hard and I’ve enjoyed my 
work, and now I’m going to enjoy a perfect holiday 

Barbara Oh, well, have it your own way 

Martha Constance dear, I think there’s something you 
ought to know 

Constance I should have thought you had discovered by 
now that I generally know the things I ought to know 

Martha You’ll never guess whom I saw in Bond Street 
this morning 

Constance Yes, I shall Mane-Louise 

Martha Oh! 

Constance I’m sorry to disappoint you, darling She rang 
me up an hour ago 

Martha But I thought she wasn’t coming back for another 
month She was going to stay away a year 

Constance She arrived last night and I’m expecting her 
every minute. 

Martha Here? 



ACT III 


1 66 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance Yes She said she simply must run m and see 
me before I left 

Martha I wonder what she wants 

Constance Perhaps to pass the time of day I think it's 
rather sweet of her, considering how busy she must be 
on getting back after so long 

Barbara She’s been all over the place, hasn’t she^ 

Constance Yes, she’s been in Malaya, Mortimer has inter- 
ests there, you know, and in China, and now they’ve 
just come from India 

Martha I often wondered if it was at your suggestion that 
they set off on that long tour immediately after that 
unfortunate scene 

Constance Which, you must confess, no one enjoyed more 
than you, darling 

Barbara It was certainly the most sensible thing they 
could do 

Martha Of course you know your own business best, 
darling, but don’t you think it’s a little unfortunate that 
you should be going away for six weeks just as she 
comes back^ 

Constance We working-women have to take our holidays 
when we can 

Barbara Surely John has had his lesson He’s not going 
to make a fool of himself a second time 

Martha Do you think he has really got over his infatuation, 
Constance^ 

Constance I don’t know at all But here he is, you’d better 
ask him 

[As she says these words , John enters 

John Ask him what? 

Martha [Not at all at a loss ] I was just wondering what 
you’d do with yourself during Constance’s absence* 



ACT III THE CONSTANT WIFE l 6 j 

J5hn I’ve got a lot of work, you know, and I shall go 
to the dub a good deal 

Martha It seems a pity that you weren’t able to arrange 
things so that you and Constance should take your 
holidays together 

Barbara Don’t blame me for that I was quite willing to 
make my arrangements to suit Constance 

Constance You see, I wanted to go to Italy and the only 
places John likes on the Continent are those in which 
it’s only by an effort of the imagination that you can 
tell you’re not in England 

Martha What about Helen* 

Constance We’ve taken a house at Henley for August 
John can play golf and go on the nver, and I shall be 
able to come up to town every day to look after the 
business 

Barbara Well, dear. I’ll leave you I hope you’ll have a 
wonderful holiday You’ve deserved it Do you know, 
I think I’m a very dever woman, John, to have 
persuaded Constance to work She’s been absolutdy 
invaluable to me 

John I never liked the idea and I’m not going to say I did 

Barbara Haven’t you forgiven me yeP 

John She insisted on it and I had to make the best of a 
bad job 

Barbara Good-bye 

Constance [Kissing her ] Good-bye, dear Take care of 
yourself 

Martha I’ll come with you, Barbara Mother said she'd 
look in for a minute to say good-bye to you 

Constance Oh, all right Good-bye 

[She kisses the two and accompanies them to the door* 
They go out 



ACT III 


168 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

John I say, Constance, I thought you had to go now 
because Barbara couldn’t possibly get away. 

Constance Did I say that? 

John Certainly, 

Constance Oh! 

John If I’d dreamt that you could just as easily take your 
holiday when I take mine 

Constance [Interrupting] Don’t you think it’s a mistake 
for husbands and wives to take their holidays together* 
The only reason one takes a holiday is for rest and 
change and recreation Do you think a man really gets 
that when he goes away with his wife^ 

John It depends on the wife 

Constance I know nothing more depressing than the sight 
of all those couples in a hotel dining-room, one little 
couple to one little table, sitting opposite to one another 
without a word to say 

John Oh, nonsense You often see couples who are very 
jolly and cheerful 

Constance Yes, I know, but look closely at the lady’s 
wedding-ring and you’ll see that it rests uneasily on the 
hand it adorns 

John We always get on like a house on fire and when I 
slipped a wedding-ring on your finger a bishop super- 
vised the process You’re not going to tell me that I 
bore you 

Constance On the contrary, you tickle me to death It’s 
that unhappy modesty of mine I was afiaid that you 
could have too.much of my society I thought it would 
refresh you if I left you to your own devices for a few 
weeks 

John If you go on pulling my leg so persistently I shall 
be permanently deformed 



ACT m THE CONSTANT WIFE 1 69 

Constance Anyhow, it’s too late now My bags are packed, 
my farewells made, and nothing bores people so much 
as to see you to-morrow when they’ve made up their 
minds to get on without you for a month 

John H’m Eyewash Look here, Constance, there’s 
something I want to say to you 

Constance Yes* 

John Do you know that Mane-Louise has come back* 

Constance Yes She said she’d try and look in to say how 
do you do before I started It’ll be nice to see her again 
after so long 

John I want you to do something for me, Constance 

Constance What is it? 

John Well, you’ve been a perfect brick to me, and hang 
it all, I can’t take advantage of your good nature I must 
do the square thing 

Constance I’m afraid I don’t quite understand 

John I haven’t seen Mane-Louise since that day when 
Mortimer came here and made such a fool of himself 
She’s been away for nearly a year and taking all things 
into consideration I think it would be a mistake to 
resume the relations that we were on then 

Constance What makes you think she wishes to* 

John The fact that she rang you up the moment she 
arrived looks ominous to me 

Constance Ominous* You know some women can’t see 
a telephone without taking the receiver off and then, 
when the operator says. Number, please, they have 
to say something I dare say ours was the first that 
occurred to Mane-Louise 

John It’s no good blinking the fact that Mane-Louise was 
madly in love with me, 

Constance Well, we can neither of us blajne her for that 



ACT III 


170 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

John I don’t want to be unkind, but after all, circumstances 
have forced a break upon us and I think we had better 
look upon it as permanent 

Constance Of course you must please yourself 

John I’m not thinking of myself, Constance Fm thinking 
partly of course of Marie-Louise’s good, but, I confess, 
chiefly of you I could never look you in the face again 
if everything between Mane-Louise and me were not 
definitely finished 

Constance I should hate you to lose so harmless and 
inexpensive a pleasure 

John Of course it’ll be painful, but if one’s made up one’s 
mind to do a thing I think it’s much better to do it 
quickly 

Constance I think you’re quite right I’ll tell you what 
I’ll do, as soon as Mane-Louise comes I’ll make an 
excuse and leave you alone with her 

John That wasn’t exactly my idea 

Constance Oh? 

John It’s the kind of thing that a woman can do so much 
better than a man It struck me that it would come 
better from you than from me 

Constance Oh, did tf? 

John It’s a little awkward for me, but it would be quite 
easy for you to say — well, you know the sort of thing, 
that you have your self-respect to think of, and to cut 
a long story short, she must either give me up or you’ll 
raise hell 

Constance But you know what a soft heart I have If she 
bursts into tears and says she can’t live without you I 
shall feel so sorry for her that I shall say. Well, damn 
it all, keep him. 

John You wouldn’t do me a dirty trick like that, Constance. 



ACT m THE CONSTANT WIFE X7I 

Constance You know that your happiness is my chief 
interest in life 

John [After a moment 9 s hesitation ] Constance, I will be 
perfectly frank with you I’m fed up with Marie-Louise 
Constance Darling, why didn’t you say that at once^ 
John Be a sport, Constance You know that’s not the 
kind of thing one can say to a woman 
Constance I admit it’s not the kind of thing she’s apt to 
take very well 

John Women are funny When they’re tired of you they 
tell you so without a moment’s hesitation and if you 
don’t like it you can lump it But if you’re tired of them 
you’re a brute and a beast and boiling oil’s too good 
for you 

Constance Very well, leave it to me I’ll do it 
John You’re a perfect brick But you’ll let her down 
gently, won’t you^ I wouldn’t hurt her feelings for the 
world She’s a nice little thing, Constance 
Constance Sweet r 

John And it’s hard luck on her 
Constance Rotten 

John Make her understand that I’m more sinned against 
than sinning I don’t want her to think too badly of me 
Constance Of course not 
John But be quite sure it’s definite 
Constance Leave it to me 

John You’re a ripper, Constance By George, no man 
could want a better wife 

[The Butler introduces Marie-Louise 
Butler Mrs Durham. 

[The two women embrace warmly 
Marie-Louise Darling, how perfectly divine to see you 
again It’s too, too wonderful 



ACT HI 


172 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance My dear, how well you’re looking Are those 
the new pearls? 

Marie-Louise Aren’t they sweet? But Mortimer bought 
me the most heavenly emeralds when we were in India 
Oh, John, how are you? 

John Oh, I’m all right, thanks 

Marie-Louise Aren’t you a little fatter than when I saw 
you last? 

John Certainly not 

Marie-Louise I’ve lost pounds [To Constance ] I’m so 
glad I caught you I should have been so disappointed 
to miss you [To John ] Where are you going? 

John Nowhere Constance is going alone 

Marie-Louise Is she? How perfectly divine I suppose you 
can’t get away Are you making pots of moneys 

John I get along Will you forgive me if I leave you? I’ve 
got to be off 

Marie-Louise Of course You’re always busy, aren’t you? 

John Good-bye 

Marie-Louise I hope we shall see something of you while 
Constance is away 

John Thank you very much 

Marie-Louise Mortimer’s golf has improved He’d love 
to play with you 

John Oh, yes, I should love it 

[He goes out 

Marie-Louise* I did so hope to find you alone Constance, 
I’ve got heaps and heaps to tell you Isn’t it tactful of 
John to leave us? First of all I want to tell you how 
splendidly everything has turned out* You know you 
were quite right. I’m so glad I took your advice and 
made Mortimer take me away for a year 

Constance Mortimer is no fool* 



ACT in THE CONSTANT WIFE I73 

Marie-Louise Oh, no, for a man he’s really quite clever I 
gave him hell, you know, for ever having suspected me, 
and at last he was just eating out of my hand But I 
could see he wasn’t quite sure of me You know what 
men are — when they once get an idea in their heads it’s 
dreadfully difficult for them to get it out again But the 
journey was an inspiration, I was absolutely angelic all 
the time, and he made a lot of money, so everything in 
the garden was rosy 

Constance I’m very glad 

Marie-Louise I owe it all to you, Constance I made 
Mortimer buy you a perfectly divine star sapphire in 
Ceylon I told him he owed you some sort of reparation 
for the insult he’d put upon you It cost a hundred and 
twenty pounds, darling, and we’re taking it to Cartier’s 
to have it set 

Constance How thrilling 

Marie-Louise You mustn’t think I’m ungrateful Now 
listen, Constance, I want to tell you at once that you 
needn’t distress yourself about me and John 

Constance I never did 

Marie-Louise I know I behaved like a little beast, but I 
never thought you’d find out If I had, well, you know 
me well enough to be positive that nothing would have 
induced me to have anything to do with him. 

Constance You’re very kind 

Marie-Louise I want you to do something for me, 
Constance Will you? 

Constance I’m always eager to oblige a fnend 

Marie-Louise Well, you know what John is Of course 
he’s a dear and all that kind of thing, but the thing’s ovei 
and it’s best that he should realize it at once 

Constance Over? 



ACT III 


174 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Marie-Louise Of course I know he’s head over heels in 
love with me still I saw that the moment I came into 
the room One can’t blame him for that, can one^ 

Constance Men do find you fascinating 

Marie-Louise But one has to think of oneself sometimes 
in this world He must see that it could never be the 
same after we discovered that you knew all about it 

Constance I kept it from you as long as I could 

Marie-Louise One couldn’t help feeling then that you were 
rather making fools of us It seemed to take the romance 
away, if you see what I mean 

Constance Dimly 

Marie-Louise You know, I wouldn’t hurt John’s feelings 
for the world, but it’s no good beating about the bush 
and I’m quite determined to have the thing finished and 
done with before you go 

Constance This is very sudden I’m afraid it’ll be an awful 
shock to John 

Marie-Louise I’ve quite made up my mind 

Constance There isn’t much time for a very long and 
moving scene, but I’ll see if John is in still Could you 
manage it in ten minutes^ 

Marie-Louise Oh, but I can’t see him I want you to 
tell him. 

Constance Mel 

Marie-Louise You know him so well, you know just the 
sort of things to say to him It’s not very nice telling 
a man who adores you that you don’t care for him in 
that way any more It’s so much easier for a thir d party 

Constance Do you really think so ? 

Marie-Louise I’m positive of it You see, you can say that 
for your sake I’ve made up my mind that from now on 
we can be nothing but friends You’ve been so wondexy 



ACT III THE CONSTANT WIFE 17$ 

fill to both of us, it would be dreadful if we didn’t play 
the game now Say that I shall always think of him 
tenderly and that he’s the only man I’ve ever really 
loved, but that we must part 
Constance But if he insists on seeing you^ 

Marie-Louise It’s no good, Constance, I can’t see him 1 
shall only cry and get my eyes all bunged up You will 
do it for me, darling Please 
Constance I will 

Marie-Louise I got the most divine evening frock in pale 
green satin on my way through Pans, and it would look 
too sweet on you Would you like me to give it to you? 
I’ve only worn it once 

Constance Now tell me the real reason why you’re so 
determined to get nd of John without a moment’s delay 
[Marie-Louise looks at her and gives a little roguish 
smile 

Marie-Louise Swear you won’t tell 
Constance On my honour 

Marie-Louise Well, my dear, we met a perfectly divine 
young man m India He was ADC to one of the 
governors and he came home on the same boat with us 
He simply adores me 

Constance And of course you adore him 
Marie-Louise My dear, I’m absolutely mad about him I 
don’t know what’s going to happen 
Constance I think we can both give a pretty shrewd 
guess 

Marie-Louise It’s simply awful to have a temperament like 
mine Of course you can’t understand, you’re cold 
Constance [Very calmly ] You’re an immoral little beast, 
Marie-Louise 

Marie-Louise Oh, I’m not I have affairs — but I’m not 
promiscuous. 



ACT III 


I76 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance I should respect you more if you were an 
honest prostitute She at least does what she does to 
earn her bread and butter You take everything from 
your husband and give him nothing that he pays for 
You are no better than a vulgar cheat 

Marie-Louise [Surprised and really hurt ] Constance, how 
can you say such things to me> I think it’s terribly 
unkind of you I thought you liked me 

Constance I do I think you a liar, a humbug and a para 
site, but I like you 

Marie-Louise You can’t if you think such dreadful things 
about me 

Constance I do You’re good-tempered and generous and 
sometimes amusing I even have a certain affection 
for you 

Marie-Louise [Smiling ] I don’t believe you mean a word 
you say You know how devoted I am to you 

Constance I take people as they are and I dare say that in 
another twenty years you’ll be the pink of propriety 

Marie-Louise Darling, I knew you didn’t mean it, but you 
will have your little joke 

Constance Now run along, darling, and I’ll break the news 
to John 

Marie-Louise Well, good-bye, and be gentle with him 
There is no reason why we shouldn’t spare him as much 
as possible [She turns to go and at the door — stops ] Of 
course I’ve often wondered why with your looks you 
don’t have more success than you do* I know now 

Constance Tell me 

Marie-Louise You see — you’re a humourist and that 
always puts men off [She goes out In a moment the door 
ts cautiously opened and John puts his bead in ] 

John Has she gone? 

Constance Come in. A fine night and all’s well. 



ACT in THE CONSTANT WIFE I77 

John [Entering ] I heard the door bang You broke it 
to her* r 

Constance I broke it 

John Was she awfully upset'* 

Constance Of course it was a shock, but she kept a stiff 
upper lip 

John Did she crf> 

Constance No Not exactly To tell you the truth I think 
she was stunned by the blow But of course when she 
gets home and realises the full extent of her loss, she’ll 
cry like anything 

John I hate to see a woman cry 

Constance It is painful, isn’t it ? But of course it's a relief 
to the nerves 

John I think you’re rather cool about it, Constance I am 
not feeling any too comfortable I shouldn’t like her 
to think I’d treated her badly 

Constance I think she quite understands that you’re doing 
it for my sake She knows that you have still a very 
great regard for her 

John But you made it quite definite, didn’t you^ 

Constance Oh, quite 

John I’m really very much obliged to you, Constance 

Constance Not at all 

John At all events I’m glad to think that you’ll be able 
to set out on your holiday with a perfectly easy mind 
By the way, do you want any moneys* I’ll wnte you a 
cheque at once 

Constance Oh, no, thank you I’ve got plenty I’ve earned 
fourteen hundred pounds during this year that I’ve been 
working 

John Have you, by Jovel That’s a very considerable sum. 



ACT m 


178 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance Fm taking two hundred of it for my holiday 
I’ve spent two hundred on my clothes and on odds and 
ends and the remaining thousand I’ve paid into your 
account this morning for my board and lodging during 
the last twelve months 

John Nonsense, darling I won’t hear of such a thing I 
don’t want you to pay for your board and lodging 
Constance I insist 
John Don’t you love me any more^ 

Constance What has that to do with it? Oh, you think a 
woman can only love a man if he keeps her Isn’t that 
rating your powers of fascination too modestly^ What 
about your charm and good humour^ 

John Don’t be absurd, Constance I can perfectly well 
afford to support you in your proper station To offer 
me a thousand pounds for your board and lodging is 
almost insulting 

Constance Don’t you think it’s the kind of insult you 
could bring yourself to swallow^ One can do a lot of 
amusing things with a thousand pounds 
John I wouldn’t dream of taking it I never liked the idea 
of your going into business I thought you had quite 
enough to do looking after the house and so forth 
Constance Have you been less comfortable since I began 
working^ 

John No, I can’t say I have 

Constance You can take my word for it, a lot of incom- 
petent women talk a great deal of nonsense about 
housekeeping If you know your job and have good 
servants it can be done in ten minutes a day 

John Anyhow, you wanted to work and I yielded I 
thought in point of fact it would be a very pleasant 
occupation for you, but heaven knows I wasn’t ex- 
pecting to profit financially by it 



ACT III THE CONSTANT WIFE I79 

Constance No, Fm sure you weren't 

John Constance, I could never help thinking that your 
determination had something to do with Mane-Louise 

[There is a moment's pause and when Constance speaks 
it is not without seriousness 

Constance Haven’t you wondered why I never reproached 
you for your affair with Marie-Louise 5 

John Yes I could only ascribe it to your unfathomable 
goodness 

Constance You were wrong I felt I hadn’t the nght to 
reproach you 

John What do you mean, Constance 5 You had every nght 
We behaved like a couple of swine I may be a dirty 
dog, but, thank God, I know I’m a dirty dog 

Constance You no longer desired me How could I blame 
you for that 5 But if you didn’t desire me, what use 
was I to you 5 You’ve seen how small a share I take in 
providing you with the comfort of a well-ordered home 

John You were the mother of my child 

Constance Let us not exaggerate the importance of that, 
John I performed a natural and healthy function of my 
sex And all the tiresome part of looking after the child 
when she was born I placed in the hands of much more 
competent persons Let us face it, I was only a parasite 
in your house You had entered into legal obligations 
that prevented you from turning me adrift, but I owe 
you a debt of gratitude for never letting me see by word 
or gesture that I was no more than a costly and at 
times inconvenient ornament 

John I never looked upon you as an inconvenient orna- 
ment And I don’t know what you mean by being a 
parasite Have I ever in any way suggested that I 
grudged a penny that I spent on you? 



l80 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT III 

Constance [With mock amazement] Do you mean to say 
that I ascribed to your beautiful maimers what was only 
due to your stupidity^ Are you as great a fool as the 
average man who falls for the average woman’s stu- 
pendous bluff that just because he’s married her he must 
provide for her wants and her luxuries, sacrifice his 
pleasures and comfort and convenience, and that he 
must look upon it as a privilege that she allows him to 
be her slave and bondman^ Come, come, John, pull 
yourself together You’re a hundred years behind the 
times Now that women have broken down the walls 
of the harem they must take the rough-and-tumble of 
the street 

John You forget all sorts of things Don’t you think a 
man may have gratitude to a woman for the love he 
has had for her in the pas & 

Constance I think gratitude is often very strong in 
men so long as it demands from them no particular 
sacrifices 

John Well, it’s a curious way of looking at things, but 
obviously I have reason to be thankful for it But after 
all you knew what was going on long before it came out 
What happened then that made you make up your mind 
to go into business? 

Constance I am naturally a lazy woman So long as 
appearances were saved I was prepared to take all I 
could get and give nothing in return, I was a parasite, 
but X knew it But when we reached a situation where 
only your politeness or your lack of intelligence pre- 
vented you from throwing the fact in my teeth, I changed 
my mind X thought that I should very much like to be 
in a position where, if X felt inclined to, I could tell you, 
with calm and courtesy, but with determination — to go * 
to hell 

John And are you m that position now? 



ACT m THE CONSTANT WIFE l8l 

Constance Precisely I owe you nothing I am able to 
keep myself For the last year I have paid my way 
There is only one freedom that is really important and 
that is economic freedom, for in the long run the man 
who pays the piper calls the tune Well, I have that 
freedom, and upon my soul it’s the most enjoyable 
sensation I can remember since I ate my first straw- 
berry ice 

John You know, I would sooner you had made me scenes 
for a month on end like any ordinary woman and 
nagged my life out than that you should harbour thus 
cold rancour against me 

Constance My poor darling, what are you talking about? 
Have you known me for fifteen years and do you t hink 
me capable of the commonness of insincerity? I harbour 
no rancour Why, my dear. Pm devoted to you 

John Do you mean to tell me that you’ve done all this 
without any intention of making me feel a perfect cad? 

Constance On my honour If I look in my heart I can 
only find in it affection for you and the most kindly and 
charitable feelings Don’t you believe me? 

[He looks at her for a moment and then makes a Itttle 
gesture of bewilderment 

John Yes, oddly enough, I do You are a remarkable 
woman, Constance 

Constance I know, but keep it to yourself You don’t 
want to give a dog a bad name 

John [With an affectionate smile ] I wish I could get away 
I don’t half like the idea of your travelling by yourself 

Constance Oh, but Tm not Didn’t I tell you? 

John No 

Constance I meant to I’m going with Bernard, 

John Ohl You never said so. Who else? 

Constance Nobody 



l8 2 THE CONSTANT WIFE ACT III 

John Oh! [He is rather taken aback at the news ] Isn’t that 
rather odd* 

Constance No Why* 

John [Not knowing at all how to take it ] Well, it’s not usual 
for a young woman to take a six weeks’ holiday with 
a man who can hardly be described as old enough to 
be her father 

Constance Bernard’s just about the same age as you 
John Don’t you think it’ll make people gossip a bit? 
Constance I haven’t gone out of my way to spread the 
news In fact, now I come to think of it, I haven’t told 
anyone but you, and you, I am sure, will be discreet 
[John suddenly feels that his collar is a little too tight 
for him , and with his fingers he tries to loosen it 
John You’re pretty certain to be seen by someone who 
knows you and they’re bound to talk 
Constance Oh, I don’t think so You see we’re motoring 
all the way and we neither of us care for frequented 
places One of the advantages of having really nice 
friends like ours is that you can always be certain of 
finding them at the fashionable resorts at the very 
moment when everybody you know is there 
John Of course I am not so silly as to think that because 
a man and a woman go away together it is necessary 
to believe the worst about them, but you can’t deny 
that it is rather unconventional I wouldn’t for a moment 
suggest that there’ll be anything between you, but it’s 
inevitable that ordinary persons should think there was 
Constance [As cool as a cucumber ] I’ve always thought 
that ordinary persons had more sense than the clever 
ones are ready to credit them with 
John [Deliberately ] What on earth do you mean* 
Constance Why, of course we’re going as man and wife, 
John. 



ACT III THE CONSTANT WIFE 183 

John Don’t be a fool, Constance You don’t know what 
you’re talking about That’s not funny at all 

Constance But, nay poor John, whom do you take us £01? 
Am I so unattractive that what I’m telling you is 
incredible? Why else should I go with Bernard^ If I 
merely wanted a companion I’d go with a woman We 
could have headaches together and have our hair washed 
at the same place and copy one another’s nightdresses 
A woman’s a much better travelling companion than 
a man 

John I may be very stupid, but I don’t seem to be able to 
understand what you’re saying Do you really mean me 
to believe that Bernard Kersal is your lover? 

Constance Certainly not 

John Then what are you talking abouf* 

Constance My dear, I can’t put it any plainer I’m going 
away for six weeks’ holiday and Bernard has very kindly 
offered to come with me 

John And where do I come m? 

Constance You don’t come in You stay at home and look 
after your patients 

John, [ Trying hts best to control himself ] I flatter myself I’m 
a sensible man I’m not going to fly into a passion 
Many men would stamp and rave or break the furniture 
I have no intention of being melodramatic, but you must 
allow me to say that what you’ve just told me is very 
surprising 

Constance Just for a moment, perhaps, but I’m sure you 
have only to familiarize yourself with the notion in order 
to become reconciled to it 

John I’m doubtful whether I shall have time to do that, 
for I feel uncommonly as though I were about to have 
an apoplectic stroke. 



ACT III 


184 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance Undo you r collar then Now I come to look 
at you I confess that you are more than usually red in 
the face 

John What makes you think that I am going to allow 
you to go? 

Constance [Good-humouredly ] Chiefly the fact that you can’t 
prevent me 

John I can’t bring myself to believe that you mean what 
you say I don’t know what ever put such an idea into 
your head 

Constance [Casually ] I thought a change might do me 
good 

John Nonsense 

Constance Why? You did Don’t you remember^ You 
were getting rather flat and stale Then you had an 
affair with Marie-Louise and you were quite another 
man Gay and amusing, full of life, and much more 
agreeable to live with The moral effect on you was 
quite remarkable 

John It’s different for a man than for a woman 

Constance Are you thinking of the possible consequences^ 
We have long passed the Victorian Era when asterisks 
were followed after a certain interval by a baby 

John That never occurred to me What I meant was that 
if a man’s unfaithful to his wife she’s an object of 
sympathy, whereas if a woman’s unfaithful to her 
husband he’s merely an object of ridicule 

Constance That is one of those conventional prejudices 
2s that sensible people must strive to ignore 

John Do you expect me to sit still and let this man take 
my wife away from under my very nose? I wonder you 
don’t ask me to shake hands with him and wish him 
good luck. 



ACT m 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


I8 5 

Constance That’s just what I am going to do He’s 
coming here in a few minutes to say good-bye to you 

John I shall knock him down 

Constance I wouldn’t take any risks in your place He’s 
pretty hefty and I’m under the impression that he’s very 
nippy with his left 

John I shall have great pleasure in telling him exactly 
what I think of him 

Constance Why^ Have you forgotten that I was charming 
to Marie-Louise ? We were the best of friends She 
never bought a hat without asking me to go and help her 
choose it 

John I have red blood in my veins 

Constance I’m more concerned at the moment with the 
grey matter in your brain 

John Is he in love with you ? 

Constance Madly Didn’t you know? 

John P How should P 

Constance He’s been here a great deal during the last 
year Were you under the impression that he only came 
to see you^ 

John I never paid any attention to him I thought him 
rather dull 

Constance He is rather dull But he’s very sweet 

John What sort of a man is it who eats a fellow’s food and 
drinks his wine and then makes love to his wife behind 
hisback^ 

A 

Constance A man very like you, John, I should say, T 

John Not at all Mortimer is the sort of man who was 
born to be made a fool of 

Constance None of us know for certain the designs of 
Providence* 



ACT III 


r86 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

John I see you’re bent on driving me to desperation I 
shall break something in a minute 

Constance There’s that blue-and-white bowl that your 
Uncle Henry gave us as a wedding present Break that, 
it’s only a modern imitation 

[Hi? takes the howl and hurls tt on the floor so that tt ts 
shattered 

John There 

Constance Do you feel better^ 

John Not a bit 

Constance It’s a pity you broke it then You might have 
given it away as a wedding present to one of your 
colleagues at the hospital 

[The butler shows in Mrs Culver 

Butler* Mrs Culver 

Constance Oh, mother, how sweet of you to come I was 
so hoping I’d see you before I left 

Mrs Culver Oh, you’ve had an accident 

Constance No, John’s in a temper and he thought it 
would relieve him if he broke something 

Mrs Culver Nonsense, John’s never in a temper 

John That’s what you think, Mrs Culver Yes, I am in a 
temper I’m in a filthy temper Are you a party to this 
plan of Constance’s? 

Constance No, mother doesn’t know 

John Can’t you do something to stop it? You have some 
influence over her You must see that the thing’s 
preposterous* ♦ 

Mrs Culver My dear boy, I haven’t the ghost of an idea 
what you’re talking about 

John She’s going to Italy with Bernard Kersal Alone. 

Mrs Culver [With a stare] It’s not true, how d’you know? 



ACT III THE CONSTANT WIFE 187 

John She’s just told me so, as bold as brass, out of a blue 
sky She mentioned it in the course of conversation as if 
she were saying. Darling, your coat wants brushing 

Mrs Culver Is it true, Constance^ 

Constance Quite 

Mrs Culver But haven’t you been getting on with John * 5 
I always thought you two were as happy as the day is 
long 

John So did I We’ve never had the shadow of a quarrel 
We’ve always got on 

Mrs Culver Don’t you love John any more, darling^ 

Constance Yes, I’m devoted to him 

John How can you be devoted to a man when you’re 
going to do him the greatest injury that a woman can do 
to a maiP 

Constance Don’t be idiotic, John I’m going to do you no 
more injury than you did me a year ago 

John [Striding up to her, thinking quite erroneously that he sees 
light ] Are you doing this in order to pay me out for 
Marie-Louise^ 

Constance Don’t be such a fool, John Nothing is further 
from my thoughts 

Mrs Culver The circumstances are entirely different It 
was very naughty of John to deceive you, but he’s sorry 
for what he did and he’s been punished for it It was all 
very dreadful and caused us a great deal of pain But a 
man’s a man and you expect that kind of thing from 
him There are excuses for him There are none for a 
woman Men are naturally polygamous and sensible 
women have always made allowances for their occasional 
lapse from a condition which modem civilisation has 
forced on them. Women are monogamous They do not 
naturally desire more than one man and that is why the 
common sense of the world has heaped obloquy upon 



x88 


THE CONSTANT WIFE 


ACT III 


them when they have overstepped the natural limitations 
of their sex 

Constance [Smiling ] It seems rather hard that what is 
sauce for the gander shouldn’t also be sauce for the goose 
Mrs Culver We all know that unchastxty has no moral 
effect on men They can be perfectly promiscuous and 
remain upright, industrious and reliable It’s quite 
different with women It ruins their character They 
become untruthful and dissipated, lazy, shiftless and 
dishonest That is why the experience of ten thousand 
years has demanded chastity in women Because it has 
learnt that this virtue is the key to all others 

Constance They were dishonest because they were giving 
away something that wasn’t theirs to give They had 
sold themselves for board, lodging and protection They 
were chattel They were dependent on their husbands 
and when they were unfaithful to them they were liars 
and thieves I’m not dependent on John I am econo- 
mically independent and therefore I claim my sexual 
independence I have this afternoon paid into John’s 
account one thousand pounds for my year’s keep 
John I refuse to take it 
Constance Well, you’ll damned well have to 
Mrs Culver There’s no object in losing your temper 
Constance I have mine under perfect control 

John If you think what they call free love is fun you’re 
mistaken Believe me, it’s the most overrated amuse- 
ment that v as ever invented 

Constance In that case, I wonder why people continue to 
indulge in it 

John I ought to know what I’m talking about, hang it all 
It has all the inconveniences of marriage and none of its 
advantages I assure you, my dear, the game is not 
worth the candle* 



ACT HI THE CONSTANT WIFE 189 

Constance You may be right, but you know how hard it is 
to profit by anybody’s experience I think I’d like to see 
for myself 

Mrs Culver Are you in love with Bernard^ 

Constance To tell you the truth I haven’t quite made up 
my mind How does one know if one’s in love^ 

Mrs Culver My dear, I only know one test Could you 
use his tooth-brush^ 

Constance No 

Mrs Culver Then you’re not in love with him 
Constance He’s adored me for fifteen years There’s 
something in that long devotion which gives me a funny 
little feeling in my heart I should like to do something 
to show him that I’m not ungrateful You see, in six 
weeks he goes back to Japan There is no chance of his 
coming to England again for seven years I’m thirty-six 
now and he adores me, in seven years I shall be forty- 
three A woman of forty-three is often charming, but it’s 
seldom that a man of fifty-five is crazy about her I came 
to the conclusion that it must be now or never and so I 
asked him if he’d like me to spend these last six weeks 
with him in Italy When I wave my handkerchief to him 
as the ship that takes him sails out of the harbour at 
Naples I hope that he will feel that all those years of 
unselfish love have been well worth the while 
John Six weeks Do you intend to leave him at the end of 
six weeks? 

Constance Oh, yes, of course It’s because I’m putting a 
limit to our love that I think it may achieve the per- 
fection of something that is beautiful and transitory 
Why, John, what is it that makes a rose so lovely but that 
its petals fall as soon as it is full blowm* 

John It’s all come as such a shock and a surprise that I 
hardly know what to say. You’ve got me at a complete 
disadvantage 



THE CONSTANT WIFE 


ACT III 


IJO 

[Mrs, Culver, who has been standing at the window ogives 
a btile cry 

Constance What is it? 

Mrs Culver Here is Bernard He’s just driven up to the 
door. 

John Do you expect me to receive him as if I were blissfully 
unconscious of your plans^ 

Constance It would be more comfortable It would be 
stupid to make a scene and it wouldn’t prevent my going 
on this little jaunt with him 

John I have my dignity to think of 

Constance One often preserves that best by putting it m 
one’s pocket It would be kind of you, John, to treat 
him just as pleasantly as I treated Mane-Louise when I 
knew she was your mistress 

John Does he know that I know^ 

Constance Of course not He’s a little conventional, you 
know, and he couldn’t happily deceive a friend if he 
thought there was no deception 

Mrs Culver Constance, is there nothing I can say to make 
you reconsider your decision^ 

Constance Nothing, darling 

Mrs Culver Then I may just as well save my breath I’ll 
slip away before he comes 

Constance Oh, all right Good-bye, mother I’ll send you 
a lot of picture post-cards 

Mrs Culver I don’t approve of you, Constance, and I 
can’t pretend that I do No good will come of it Men 
were meant by nature to be wicked and delightful and 
deceive their wives, and women were meant to be 
virtuous and forgiving and to suffer verbosely That was 
ordained from all eternity and none of your new-fangled 
notions can alter the decrees of Providence 

[The Butler enters t folhwed by Bernard 



ACT III THE CONSTANT WIFE X9I 

Bentley Mr Kersal 

Mrs Culver How do you do, Bernard, and good-bye 
Fm just going 

Bernard Oh, I’m sorry Good-bye 

[She goes out 

Constance [To Bernard] How d’you do* Just one 
moment [To the Butler ] Oh, Bentley, get my things 
downstairs and put them in a taxi, will you? 

Bentley Very good, madam 

Bernard Are you just starting* It’s lucky I came when I 
did I should have hated to miss you 

Constance And let me know when the taxi’s here, 

Bentley Yes, madam 

Constance Now I can attend to you 

[The Butler goes out 

Bernard Are you looking forward to your holiday* 

Constance. Immensely I’ve never gone on a jaunt like this 
before, and Fm really quite excited 

Bernard You’re going alone, aren’t you? 

Constance Oh, yes, quite alone 

Bernard It’s rotten for you not to be able to get away, old 
man 

John Rotten 

Bernard I suppose these are the penalties of greatness I 
can quite understand that you have to think of your 
patients first 

John Quite 

Constance Of course John doesn’t very much care for 
Italy 

Bernard Oh, are you going to Italy? I thought you said 
Spam 

John No, she always said Italy 



ACT in 


192 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Bernard Oh, well, that’s hardly your mark, is it, old boy? 
Though I believe there are some sporting links on the 
Lake of Como 

Johns Are there? 

Bernard I suppose there’s no chance of your being any- 
where near Naples towards the end of July? 

Constance I don’t really know My plans are quite 
vague 

Bernard I was only asking because I’m sailing from 
Naples It would be fun if we met there 

John Great fun 

Constance I hope you’ll see a lot of John while I’m away 
I’m afraid he’ll be a trifle lonely, poor darlrng Why 
don’t you dine together one day next week? 

Bernard I’m terribly sorry, but you know I’m going 
away 

Constance Oh, are you? I thought you were going to stay 
in London till you had to start for Japan 

Bernard I meant to, but my doctor has ordered me to go 
and do a cure 

John What sort of a cure? 

Bernard Oh, just a cure He says I want bucking up 

John. Oh, does he? What’s the name of your doctor? 

Bernard No one you ever heard of A man I used to know 
in the war 

John OhI 

Bernard So I’m afraid this is good-bye Of course, it’s a 
wrench leaving London, especially as I don’t expect to be 
in Europe again for some years, but I always think it 
rather silly not to take a man’s advice when you’ve asked 
font 

John More especially when he’s charged you three guineas. 



ACT III THE CONSTANT WIFE I93 

Constance I’m sorry I was counting on you to keep John 
out of mischief during my absence 

Bernard I’m not sure if I could guarantee to do that But 
we might have done a few theatres together and had a 
game of golf or two 

Constance It would have been jolly, wouldn’t it, JobtP 

John Very jolly 

[The Butler comes tn 

Bentley The taxi’s waiting, madam 

Constance Thank you 

[The Butler goes out 

Bernard I’ll take myself off In case I don’t see you again 
I’d like to thank you now for all your kindness to me 
during the year I’ve spent in London, 

Constance It’s been very nice to see you 

Bernard You and John have been most awfully good to 
me I never imagined I was going to have such a 
wonderful time 

Constance We shall miss you terribly It’s been a great 
comfort to John to think that there was someone to 
take me out when he had to be away on one of his 
operations Hasn’t it, darling^ 

John Yes, darling 

Constance When he knew I was with you he never 
worried Did you, darling^ 

John No, darling 

Bernard I’m awfully glad if I’ve been able to make myself 
useful Don’t forget me entirely, will yoiP 

Constance We’re not likely to do that, are we, darling? 

John No, darling 

Bernard And if you ever have a moment to spare you will 
write to me, won’t you? You don’t know how much it 
means to us exiles. 



ACT ni 


194 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance Of course we will We’ll both write Won’t 
we, darling? 

John Yes, darling 

Constance John writes such a good letter So chatty, you 
know, and amusing 

Bernard That’s a promise Well, good-bye, old boy 
Have a good time 

John Thanks, old bean 

Bernard Good-bye, Constance There’s so much I want 
to say to you that I don’t know where to begin 

John I don’t want to hurry you, but the taxi is just ticking 
its head off 

Bernard John is so matter-of-fact Well, I’ll say nothing 
then but God bless you 

Constance Au revolt 

Bernard If you do go to Naples you will let me know, 
won’t you? If you send a line to my club, it’ll be for- 
warded at once 

Constance Oh, all right. 

Bernard Good-bye 

[He gives them both a friendly nod and goes out Con- 
stance begins to giggle and soon is seized with 
uncontrollable laughter 

John Will you kindly tell me what there is to laugh at? If 
you think it amuses me to stand here like patience on a 
monument and have my leg pulled you’re mistaken 
What did you mean by all that balderdash about meeting 
you by chance in Naples? 

Constance He was throwing you off the scent. 

John The man’s a drivelling idiot 

Constance D’you think so? I thought he was rather 
ingenious Considering he hasn’t had very much 
practice in this sort of thing I thought he did very well 



ACT III THE CONSTANT WIFE 195 

John Of course if you’re determined to find him a pattern 
of perfection it’s useless for me to attempt to argue But 
honestly, speaking without prejudice for or against, I’m 
sorry to think of you throwing yourself away on a man 
like that 

Constance Perhaps it’s natural that a man and his wife 
should differ in their estimate of her prospective lover 

John You’re not going to tell me he’s better-looking than I 
am 

Constance No You have always been my ideal of manly 
beauty 

John He’s no better dressed than I am 

Constance He could hardly expect to be He goes to the 
same tailor 

John I don’t think you can honestly say he’s more amusing 
than I am 

Constance No, I honestly can’t 

John Then in Heaven’s name why do you want to go away 
with hinP 

Constance Shall I tell you^ Once more before it’s too late 
I want to feel about me the arms of a man who adores the 
ground I walk on I want to see his face light up when I 
enter the room I want to fed the pressure of his hand 
when we look at the moon together and the pleasantly 
tickling sensation when his arm tremulously steals 
around my waist I want to let my hand fall on his 
shoulder and feel his lips softly touch my hair 

John The operation is automatically impossible, the poor 
devil would get such a crick in the neck he wouldn’t 
know^what to do 

Constance I want to walk along country lanes holding 
hands and I want to be called by absurd pet names I 
want to talk baby-talk by the hour together 

John Oh, God. 



ACT III 


196 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance I want to know that Fm eloquent and witty 
when Fm dead silent For ten years Fve been very happy 
in your affection, John, we’ve been the best and dearest 
friends, but now just for a little while I hanker for some- 
thing else Do you grudge it me^ I want to be loved 

John But, my dear. I’ll love you I’ve been a brute, I’ve 
neglected you, it’s* not too late and you’re the only 
woman I’ve ever real ly cared for I’ll chuck everything 
and we’ll go away together 

Constance The prospect does not thrill me 

John Come, darling, have a heart I gave up Mane-Louise 
Surely you can give up Bernard 

Constance But you gave up Mane-Louise to please 
yourself, not to please me 

John Don’t be a little beast, Constance Come away with 
me We’ll have such a lark 

Constance Oh, my poor John, I didn’t work so hard to 
gam my economic independence in order to go on a 
honeymoon with my own husband 

John Do you think I can’t be a lover as well as a husband^ 

Constance My dear, no one can make yesterday’s cold 
mutton into to-morrow’s lamb cutlets 

John You know what you’re doing I was determined in 
future to be a model husband and you’re driving me 
right into the arms of Mane-Louise I give you my word 
of honour that the moment you leave this house I shall 
drive straight to her door 

Constance I should hate you to have a fruitless journey 
I’m afraid you won’t find her at home She has a new 
young man and she says he’s too divine. 

John Whatl 

Constance He’s the A D C of a Colonial Governor She 
came here to-day to ask me to break the news to you that 
henceforth everything was over between you. 



ACT III THE CONSTANT WIFE I97 

John I hope you told her first that I was firmly resolved to 
terminate a connection that could only cause you pain 

Constance I couldn’t She was in such a blooming hurry 
to give me her message 

John Really, Constance, for your own pride I should have 
thought you wouldn’t like her to make a perfect fool of 
me Any other woman would have said. What a 
strange coincidence Why it’s only half an hour since 
John told me he had made up his mind never to see you 
again But of course you don’t care two straws for me 
any more, that’s quite evident 

Constance Oh, don’t be unjust, darling I shall always care 
for you I may be unfaithful, but I am constant I always 
think that’s my most endearing quality 

[The Butler opens the door 

John [ Irritably ] What is it? 

Bentley I thought madam had forgotten that the taxi was 
at the door 

John Go to hell 

Bentley Very good, sir 

[He goes out 

Constance I don’t see why you should be rude to him 
Bernard will pay the taxi Anyhow I must go now or 
he’ll begin to think I’m not coming Good-bye, darling 
I hope you’ll get on all right in my absence Just give the 
cook her head and you’ll have no trouble Won’t you 
say good-bye to me? 

John Go to the devil 

Constance All right I shall be back in six weeks. 

John Back? Where? 

Constance Here 

John Here? Here? Do you think I’m going to take you 
back? 



ACT III 


198 THE CONSTANT WIFE 

Constance I don’t see why not When you’ve had time to 
reflect you’ll realise that you have no reason to blame me 
After all, I’m taking from you nothing that you want 
John Are you aware that I can divorce you for this^ 
Constance Quite But I married very prudently I took 
the precaution to marry a gentleman and I know that you 
could never bring yourself to divorce me for doing no 
more than you did yourself 

John I wouldn’t divorce you I wouldn’t expose my worst 
enemy to the risk of marrying a woman who’s capable of 
treating her husband as you’re treating me 
Constance [At the door ] Well, then, shall I come hack? 
John [After a moment's hesitation ] You are the most 
maddening, wilful, capricious, wrong-headed, delightful 
and enchanting woman man was ever cursed with having 
for a wife Yes, damn you, come back 

f She lightly kisses her hand to htm and slips out , slamming 
the door behind her 


Ihe End 



THE BREAD-WINNER 

A COMEDY 
m One Act 




CHARACTERS 


Charles Battle 
Margery, his wifi* 

Judy, bis daughter 
Patrick, bis son 
Alfred Granger 
Dorothy, his wife 
Diana, bis daughter • 

Timothy, bis son 

The action of the play is continuous , and takes place in the 
drawing-room of the Battles 9 bouse at Golders Green In 
order to rest the audience the curtain is lowered twice during 
the performance • 




THE BREAD-WINNER 


SCENE I 

A well-fur m shed drawing-room, in the modem style hut without 
excess , an airy , sunny room looking on to the handsome suburban 
garden 

When the curtain rises Judy and Patrick are discovered 
Patrick is in flannels He is a nice-looking boy of eighteen 
He is lying on the sofa very comfortably , reading an illustrated 
paper, others are scattered about him on the floor Judy is 
seventeen She is preny , blond and self-possessed She also is 
dressed in tennis things She is standing at the gramophone , and 
ha i just put on a new record However brusquely Patrick and 
Judy talk, and however frank they are in expressing their 
opinions , they remain engaging and delightful The same applies 
to their friends Diana and Timothy 

Patrick \Without looking up from his paper ] Aren’t you sick 
of that yet ^ 

Judy My dear child, it’s absolutely new It was only 
written last week, and the record came out yesterday 
morning 

Patrick Rot I was weaned on it I vividly remember 
mother turning it on to get me to take the bottle quietly 

Judy Liar! It’s rather jolly to dance to Come on. 

Patrick [Without moving ] Oh, God! 

Judy Slacker 

Patrick I wish Tim and Dinah would hurry up* 

Judy What’s the time^ She said they’d come immediately 
after lux^h* 

203 



204 THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE I 

Patrick Ring them up and tell them to hurry up 
Judy [. Amiably ] Ring them up yourself 
Patrick Lazy hound 

Judy Tim’s going back next term after all He wanted to 
go up to Cambridge with you, but Alfred said he must 
stay at school another year 

Patrick He’s only seventeen 
Judy He’ll be eighteen in December 

Patrick There’s all the difference between being eighteen 
now and eighteen in December I should have thought 
that was obvious to the meanest intelligence 

Judy Here they are [She goes to the door and opens it] 
Dinah! 

Diana [Outside ] Hullo! 

Judy We’re in here Bring your rackets along. 

Diana Right-ho 

[She comes in, a dark pretty girl of eighteen and a bit , with 
fine eyes and a fresh colour She has a racket m her hand 
She is followed by her brother Timothy He is a year 
younger than she, and , as we have heard, will not be 
eighteen till December He is a slim, tall, dark youth 
wearing a gay blazer and a muffler, and he carries two 
rackets Patrick gets up from the sofa 

Patrick Hullo, Dinah. 

Diana* Hullo 

Patrick I forget, do we kiss? 

Diana Only at dances under the influence of claret cup 
Patrick Hullo, Tim. How are you? 

Timothy Allnght How are you? 

Patrick [Pointing to the two rackets,] I say, what’s the idea? 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 20J 

Timothy I’ve come on in my game a bit lately One must 
have two rackets, you know 

Patrick Wimbledon Eh, what? 

Diana Tim is now a blood 

Patrick I hear you’re going back next term 

Timothy Rotten, isn’t it* Alfred’s being frightfully 
tiresome 

Patrick How is your respected parent? 

Timothy Very facetious 

Diana Few people know how exhausting it is to have a 
humorist in the family 

Patrick I’m thankful to say that’s not one of our troubles 
You’d have to get an axe to get father to see that you’re 
making a joke 

Judy Poor Daddy, no one could say that he has a sense of 
humour 

Timothy Have you plied him with liquor? 

Patrick It has no effect, it’s constitutional. 

Diana When did you get back, Pat? 

Patrick Just before lunch 

Timothy We broke up the day before yesterday. 

Diana Are you glad to have left school? 

Patrick Rather! I didn’t have a bad time, you know Rut 
I want to go up to Cambridge now I think it’ll be rather 
fun 

Judy I think he’s grown since Easter, don’t you, Dinah? 

Patrick* I’m sure I have I can tell by my dinner-jacket 
I’m going to order some new tails to-morrow. 

Timothy Who are you going to? 

Patrick, Well, I don’t know I suppose Daddy’ll want me 
to go to his tailor as usual But I’m going to tell him that 
of course he’s all nght for him, but honestly he’s not 
smart enough for me. 



20S THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE I 

Diana I shall take off my hat [She does so, and shakes her 
shmgled head] Lead me your comb, Tim j 

Timotht [Looking tn his pocket ] Oh damn, I left it at home 

Judy Pat’ll lend you his 

Patrick [Taking a comb out of hts pocket ] Here you are 

[He gives it to her , and taking a little glass from her bag she 
combs her hair Then Judy lakes the comb from her 
and runs it through her hair 

Timothy Are you still going in for the Bar, Pat^ 

Patrick Oh, yes I think so After all, it’s the only 
profession that really gives you a chance It’ll be rather 
fun coming up to town to eat my dinners 

Timothy Let me have the comb a minute 

[He takes it and combs his perfectly ordered hair He 
returns it to Patrick, who mechanically does the same , 
and then puts it back m his pocket 

Patrick Of course I shall go in for politics 

Diana Which side^ 

Patrick Well, I haven’t really made up my mind yet 
Daddy’s always been a liberal, but there’s nothing to be 
got out of being a liberal now I think the only thing 
now is labour 

Diana I’m labour I always have been 

Patrick They want people like us, public school and 
varsity, and that sort of thing 

Timothy Of course you’re lucky, you can go in for any- 
thing you like I’ve got to go into Alfred’s rotten old 
business 

Diana You can’t blame Alfred It’s an old-established firm, 
and he wants his only son to follow in his footsteps 

Timothy Can you see me as respectable family lawyer? 

Patrick Perfectly, and I can see you giving me fat briefs 



SCENE I 


THE BREAD-WINNER 


*07 


Timothy Fll tell you one thing, Pm not going to live at 
home 

Patrick They couldn’t expect you to do that I don’t irnnd 
coming here during the vac for a bit when I haven’t got 
anywhere better to go, but as soon as I settle down in 
London Pm going to tell Daddy that I must have a flat 

Timothy We might share one 

Patrick That’s not a bad idea I’ve got rather a fancy for 
Albemarle Street personally 

Timothy That would do me all right As long as it’s 
absolutely central I don’t care where I live 

Patrick It’s a damned good address And one must have 
that 

Timothy Absolutely 

Diana I’m simply fed up with the suburbs 

Patrick So am I Fed to the teeth 

Judy I can’t imagine why they want to live out in the wilds 
like this 

Patrick Poor Mummy thinks this is such a nice neigh- 
bourhood 

Judy It was all very well when we were kids We had to 
have fresh air and all that sort of rot But now we’re 
grown up I can’t see the point of it 

Diana Would you believe it? Dorothy thinks it’s central 
When I tell her it’s the back of beyond, she says. My 
dear, what are you talking about? It’s only twelve 
minutes by tube from Piccadilly Circus 

Patrick One’s people are really extraordinary You know, 
ours haven’t begun to realise that we are grown up 

Judy Mummy still wants to buy my clothes for me I had 
to make the devil of a row before I could get my own 
dress allowance 

Timothy I will say that for Alfred, he’s given us an 
allowance ever since we were fifteen. 



ao8 the BREAD-WINNER SCENE I 

Patrick Fm expecting to have a bit of a dust up with father 
over my allowance at Cambridge Fm going to ask for 
five hundred 

Timothy Do you think he'll give you that 5 
Patrick No, but I think he’ll give me four If I ask for 
four he'll try and get off for three-fifty 
Timothy He oughtn’t to kick at that 
Patrick He oughtn’t to kick at anything After all, I 
didn't ask to be brought into the world He did it 
entirely for his own amusement, and he's had a lot of fun 
out of me He must be prepared to pay for it 
Timothy That's fair enough 

Patrick When I settle down m London he’ll have to give 
me at least five hundred a year Everybody knows that 
you can't earn a living at the Bar till you're thirty 
Timothy If Alfred gave me the same, we ought to be able 
to do ourselves pretty well in a flat 
Diana It makes me perfectly sick when I hear you two talk 
of having a flat in town I'd love to have one of my 
own Wouldn't you, Judy? 

Judy Simply love it 

Diana I’m sick of living at home 

Patrick Why don't you marry 5 

Diana Oh, I'm not going to marry for years yet I want to 
marry when Fm twenty-four* I want to have a good time 
first 

Judy Oh, I think that's rather old I want to marry when 
I'm twenty-one 

Patrick* Why don't you tell Alfred that you want your 4 
own flat 5 

Diana Can you see his face 5 \lmtatmg her father J Fve 
made a jolly good home for my kiddies, old boy, and 
between you and I, I don't mind telling you they think 
there's no place like it 



SCENE I 


THE BREAD-WINNER 


209 


Patrick [With a smile ] Poor Alfred 

Diana Alfred’s all right. He means well 

Timothy Only he’s so terribly hearty 

Diana I think it’s rather pathetic sometimes, his delusion 
that one’s really going to look upon one’s parents as 
friends 

Timothy It’s so shy-making, his one boy to another stunt 

Diana Well, you know, it’s got its advantages Call him 
old bean, and you can get anything you want out of 
htm 

Patrick It’s so damned humiliating having to play up to 
one’s people all the time 

Diana What else can you do? They have an idea about 
you in their heads and you have to live up to it They’re 
incapable of understanding that you’re not in the least 
what they think you are 

Timothy I shall never forget when I was leaving my prep 
school, and Dorothy told Alfred he must tell me what 
she called the facts of life 

Patrick Oh, God! 

Timothy I’ve never seen Alfred in such a twitter He was 
trying to be terribly hearty, and he got as red as a 
turkey-cock I could see the sweat simply pouring down 
his face 

Patrick, What did you do? 

Timothy "What could I do* I couldn’t very well say to 
him. Look here, Alfred, you’re about three years too 
late with all this, there’s not much you can tell me I don’t 
know 

Diana Our dear little innocent Timothy, 

Timothy So I just did the little blushing boy stunt, and let 
him get it off his chest Ami then he gave me a pound 
and said. You’d better take your sister to a matinee. 



ZIO THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE I 

Patrick How is our respected parent these days, Judy? 

Judy Oh, I don’t know, same as usual 

Diana Of course you haven’t seen him yet? 

Patrick No I suppose he’ll be getting back from the Qty 
presently I was only asking because I’ve been wonder- 
ing if there was any chance of getting a car out of him 

Timothy I say, that would be grand 

Patrick Well, now I’ve left school I ought to have a car of 
my own It’s absurd that I should have to go about in the 
family bus [To Judy] Have you said anything to 
Mummy about it? 

Judy She says it all depends on how things are on the 
Stock Exchange 

Patrick They’re all rolling on the Stock Exchange As 
long as the world is full of mugs, stock-brokers are 
bound to make money 

Diana You know, I like your father, Pat 

Judy Very dull, poor darling 

Diana I’m not sure that I wouldn’t rather have a dull 
father than a funny one 

Patrick Fortunately we don’t see much of him except at 
dinner And that’s pretty ghastly, isn’t it, Judy? 

Judy Ghastly isn’t the word 

Patrick Daddy sitting at one end of the table never 
opening his mouth, and mother improving our minds 
with bright chat about art and literature 

Diana That’s home life 

Patrick, Well, I’ve had about enough of it, I can tell you 
D’you think that when wire their age we shall be as 
bonng as they are? 

Judy Oh, I don’t see why we should for a moment. 

Timothy. How old is your father, Pat? 

Patrick* I think he’s forty-two, isn’t he, Judy? 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 211 

Judy Yes, he was comparatively young when he married 
Mummy Twenty-three 

Diana One of those awful war marriages, I suppose Like 
Alfred and Dorothy 

Judy Oh, no They must have been married before that 
Pat’s eighteen 

Diana Well, when was the war* 

Timothy Oh, don’t let’s talk of that old war I’m fed to the 
teeth with it 

Judy What a bore the people are who went through it 
Patrick Crashing 

Judy When they get together and start talking about their 
experiences I could scream 
Diana I know As if anyone cared 
Timothy They were a dreary lot, that war generation 
Diana Well, don’t forget that except for the war there 
would have been a lot more of them 
Timothy They don’t amount to anything any more 
They’re finished and done with, thank God 
Diana Unfortunately some of them don’t know it 
Judy Well, I’m going to make it my business to tell them 
whenever I have an opportunity 
Patrick After all, let’s face it, people aren’t any good after 
forty, are they* They’re only in the way, and life can’t be 
any pleasure to them 

Diana I don’t suppose it is much, but what are you to do 
with them? You can’t drown them like puppies 
Timothy It’s obvious that people live much too long now 
Patrick If nature were properly organised they’d just drop 
off quite quietly at the age of forty 
Diana D’you think they’d like it? 

Patrick I don’t see why they should mmd They’ve had 
their day They’ve done everything they’re capable of 



lit THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE I 

doing Look at all the poets and painters and so on 
What on earth have they done that was worth while after 
they were forty? What’s the good of hanging on, a 
burden to yourself and everyone connected with you? 
It would be much better if they just passed out quietly, 
like the mayflies when they’ve had their little bit of 
nonsense 

Judy Of course, I don’t expect to live till I’m forty Fancy 
being thirty-six I shall die when I’m twenty-nine 
Diana Have you made your wiiP 
Judy No, but I’ve been thinking about it 
Timothy You might leave me those jade buttons of yours 
They’d make rather nice links 

Judy Oh, I’m going to be buned with all my jewellery I 
made up my mind about that years ago 
Patrick Don’t talk rot I’m being serious In a well- 
regulated state at a certain age everyone should be put 
painlessly out of existence, 

Diana Without exception? 

Patrick Of course 

Diana It would be rather a wrench when it came to one’s 
own people 

Patrick Of course, it would be a wrench But one would 
have to sacrifice one’s private feelings to the common 
good Take our case, for instance Judy and I are quite 
fond of father and mother Aren’t we, Judy? 

Judy Yes We’re as fond of them as anyone can be of their 
people 

Patrick But we’re not blind to their defects Mummy is 
terribly arty and highbrow. And poor Daddy has no 
sense of humour* 

Judy Absolutely 

Patrick They’ve always been very nice to us* They’ve 
sent us to decent schools and given us a good time In the 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 213 

holidays And we’ve always been very decent to them 
We’ve never given them any trouble I think we’ve been 
rather a credit to them 

Diana On the whole 

Patrick But now it’s quite obvious that their use is 
ended They can only hamper us in future We’re 
grown up and we want our freedom 

Timothy You’re absolutely right, Patrick 

Patrick Of course. I’m right I’m not just talking through 
my hat I’ve thought about this a great deal We’ve 
arrived at an age now when we ought to be on our own 
We’ve got the whole world before us. We can’t afford to 
be What’s the word I want? 

Diana Footled about 

Judy Tied 

Patrick Trammelled, that’s it Trammelled by domestic 
ties 

Timothy It is damned unfair, there’s no doubt about 
that 

Patrick Unfair isn’t the word It’s damned unjust That’s 
what it is They’ve had their fling and now they want to 
prevent us from having ours After all one must have 
money And one wants it when one’s young What’s the 
good of money to middle-aged people* 

Diana They do spend it in the most idiotic way One can’t 
deny that 

Patrick Daddy’s been on the Stock Exchange for a good 
many years and he must have made a packet It does 
seem a bit thick that Judy and I should have to wait for it 
till we’re too old to spend it 

Diana Of course, all that’s true But it does seem rather 
drastic to kill the poor old things off 

Judy I don’t believe you’d have the heart to do it, Pat? 



SCENE I 


214 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Patrick I daresay when it came to the point 1 should 
hesitate, One has one’s feelings After all, it’s a rotten 
thing having to put an old dog out of its sufferings 
Judy Don’t speak of it God, how I cried when we had to 
send poor old Bonzo to the vet ’s to have him destroyed 
Patrick It made me feel a bit funny, I don’t mind telling 
you 

Judy I shall never have a dog I love so much 
Patrick I don’t want to be cruel I merely said that m a 
well-regulated state when people have outlived their 
utility, say at forty, they ought to be put out of their 
misery But we don’t live in a well-regulated state, and I 
don’t suppose we ever shall 

Timothy I don’t know about that Our generation hasn’t 
had a chance yet 

Patrick Personally I’d be quite willing to compromise 
Diana How’d you mean? 

Patrick Well, at forty I’d make people retire and hand over 
all their property to their children If they hadn’t any 
property the state would support them and, of course, if 
they had, their children would make them an allowance 
Timothy That’s not a bad idea 

Patrick Judy and I would give our people two hundred 
and fifty a year That would be quite enough They 
could have a little cottage in the country Mother could 
keep chickens and Daddy could potter about the garden 
I think they’d be awfully happy 
Judy Mummy always has said that’s just the sort of thing 
she’d love 

Diana Do you think two hundred and fifty would be 
enough^ 

Patrick Oh, quite You see, they’d grow their own 
vegetables and then there’d be the eggs 
Judy I say, what a lark we could have. 



SCENE I 


THE BREAD-WINNER 


215 


Diana What would you do^ 

Patrick The first thing would be to sell the house and take 
a flat m town Judy and I could live together till she 
married 

J udy I know the first thing Fd do I’d j oin every night club 
in London 

Patrick I’d hunt We could probably run to a little 
hunting-box somewhere in my constituency And I 
could kill two birds with one stone that way 
Timothy I’d have the fastest car made and my own 
aeroplane 

Diana I don’t know what I’d do Of course, Fd get all my 
clothes in Pans 

Judy* I think we’d make things hum 
Patrick There’s no doubt in my mind we’d run the world 
a damned sight better than it’s ever been run before 
Why should the old think that they know better than we 
do^ They belong to the past We’re the future and the 
future’s ours Why shouldn’t we do what we like with 
our own property? 

Diana You have come on since last holidays, Pat 
Patrick Three months is a long time I’ve been thinking a 
lot about things in general 
Timothy I wish I had your gift of the gab 
Patrick It’s not necessary for you You’re only going to 
be a solicitor You must have it at the Bar* 

Judy There’s Mummy* 

Patrick Oh, let’s go and play tennis then* 

Timothy Come on 

Judy How are we going to play^ 

[As thy get up, Timothy taking hts rackets, the door ts 
opened and Margery and Dorothy come tn 
Margery ts a pretty, shghtly faded blonde, and 



Zl6 THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE I 

Dorothy is dark , like her daughter , and rather 
alluring Her pose is sttppressed passion They are both 
under forty 9 smartly dressed and a good deal made up 
Neither ts the decrepit old creature you might have 
suspected from listening to their children’s conversation , 
and neither has the slightest idea that her day is over 
Margery You lazy people, why aren’t you playing tennis^ 
Judy We’re just going to, Mummy 
Patrick Hulloa, Aunt Dorothy. 

Dorothy You’ve grown, Pat 
Margery Isn’t he enormous^ 

[Dorothy kisses Patrick on the cheek 
Dorothy [Archly \ I’m not quite sure if Alfred would 
approve of my kissing such a grown-up young man 
Patrick* After all, you are my aunt 
Dorothy Not really, ^f course Your mother and I are 
only first cousins 

Diana She means that except for Alfred you and she could 
marry 

Dorothy Don’t be so silly, Dinah 

Timothy It’s not a bad idea If Alfred’s run over by a 
motor-bus you shall marry Dorothy, Pat I think you’d 
make me a very good father 

Patrick I wouldn’t let you call me by my Christian name 
I should insist on your calling me Papa 

Margery Run along, you idiots Dorothy and I want to 
talk. 

Timothy Come on, you kids 

Patrick [Going out } No rest for the weary 

[The four young things go Margery and Dorothy 
settle themselves down for a gossip by getting their lip- 
sticks and mirrors out of their bags and starting to 
paint their kps. 



217 


SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 

Dorothy What a nice-looking boy Pat is growing You’ll 

have to keep an eye on him, darling You know what 
women ate 

Margery Oh, I’m not frightened He’s absolutely 
innocent And he tells me everything 
Dorothy They talk a lot of nonsense about the young 
nowadays. I don’t believe they know half as much as we 
did at their age. 

Margery I wish they wouldn’t grow up quite so quickly 
When Pat came back from school this morning, it gave 


me quite a shock 

Dorothy I don’t care It’s not like before the war 
People don’t grow old like they used to When Dinah 
and I go out together we’re always taken for sisters 
Margery I honestly don’t think you look a day older than 

she does But then you’re dark That gives you such an 
adv antag e When you’re blonde like me you fade 
Dorothy You haven’t Why, I was only thinking at 
dwnct last night how lovely your hair looked 
Margery It’s several shades darker than when I was a girl 
I was wondering if anyone would notice if I had it 
touched up a little 

Dorothy Of course, it does make the face look harder 


Margery Oh, I wouldn’t have it dyed I’d only just have a 
few reflets d’or put in Ernest said he could do it so that 
not a soul would know it wasn’t natural 
Dorothy Well, I know someone who likes you very much 


as you are 

Margery Dorothyl As a matter of fact I don’t know what 
you’re talking about 

Dorothy Come off it. Marge Do you think I haven’t got 
eyes in my head? Why, it was obvious last night 

Margery You don’t think it was, really? 



SCENE I 


2l8 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Dorothy Well, it was obvious to me I’ve been dying to 
know what he said to you 

Margery i suppose those children really are playing tennis 5 

Dorothy Oh, yes Fm simply thrilled, Marge 

Margery Well, he said he was quite crazy about me He said 
he’d been wanting to tell me for a long time, but knowing 
Charlie on the Stock Exchange and all that sort of thing, 
he hadn’t liked to But he simply couldn’t help himself 

Dorothy During dinner, was that, or afterwards 5 

Margery Well, he began during dinner, but not seriously, 
you know Lightly He didn’t really get serious till 
afterwards when we’d been dancing 

Dorothy Does he dance well? 

Margery Divinely 

Dorothy I suppose he wanted to see how you’d take it 
Men are rather cautious I suppose they don’t want to 
get snubbed Tell me what you said to him 

Margery Well, of course, I laughed I said. Do you 
realise that I have two children who are practically grown 
up 5 He said he didn’t believe it He said he’d bet a 
monkey that I wasn’t a day more than twenty-five What 
is a monkey, darling 5 

Dorothy A thousand pounds and a pony’s five hundred I 
can’t think why men don’t say five hundred pounds 
when they mean five hundred pounds 

Margery It does seem silly, doesn’t it 5 

Dorothy* Go on, dear 

Margery Then I said, I’ve got a girl of seventeen I 
didn’t say anything about Pat I thought if he liked to 
think he was younger he could* 

Dorothy I don’t blame you* 

Margery*' Then he said. Well, all I can say is, you must 
have been married out of your cradle So then I gave 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 1 19 

him a look and I said, Well, I wasn’t very old, I 
admit 

Dorothy I know exactly how you said it Sweeping the 
floor with your eyelashes so to speak I’ve seen you do it 
dozens of times andat always gets them 

Margery It’s quite unconscious I never mean to Then 
he took my hand and said, I wonder if you know how 
much more attractive it is to be a grown woman than a 
silly slip of a girl 

Dorothy Men always say that And I’m sure it’s true Men 
don’t fall in love with girls They’re not interesting 
enough 

Margery I suppose there’s something in that 

Dorothy And what happened next? 

Margery He asked me what Charlie does on Sundays 
Oh, I said, he goes and plays golf Good old 
Charlie, he said Then he asked me if I wouldn’t go 
motoring with him in the country 

Dorothy And are you going^ 

Margery Of course not Why, I hardly know the man 

Dorothy You can’t expect to get to know the man if you 
never see him 

Margery It wouldn’t be fair to the children 

Dorothy Charlie goes and has a good time playing golf 
I don’t see why you shouldn’t go motoring if you want 
to 

Margery You know what I am, Dorothy 

Dorothy I don’t believe you’re as cold as you pretend 

Margery Perhaps not But Charlie’s never looked at 
another woman since he married me I shouldn’t like to 
do anything to hurt his feelings 

Dorothy It wouldn’t hurt his feelings if he didn’t know I 
don’t say go too far, but a flirtation can do no one any 



220 THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE I 

harm And everyone knows there’s nothing like having 
a man pay her a little attention to make a woman look 
young 

Margery Of course, there’s something in that 

Dorothy You know as well as I do that in all the time 
we’ve been married I’ve never been unfaithful to Alfred 
But I’ve had scores of beaux That’s what’s kept me 
fresh and alert and up to date 

Margery It’s true that one wants something to make up 
for marned life 

Dorothy No one could want a better husband than Alfred, 
and I’m sure he’s always been absolutely faithful to me, 
but I could never have stood his heartiness for all these 
years if I hadn’t had my little flirtations on the side 

Margery What a mercy it is that men have to go to 
business every day What would one do if they were 
about the house all day long^ 

Dorothy How has Charlie been lately? 

Margery Well, you’ve seen him Just the same as ever 
He never changes 

Dorothy Of course, I’ve seen for ages that he rather bores 
you 

Margery Nineteen years is a long time to be married 

Dorothy Too long, if you ask me 

Margery* I suppose I’ve got nothing to complain of really. 
He gives me everything I want 

Dorothy And you never quarrel, do you? 

Margery Oh, never And he never fusses. But, of course, 
he u limited* 

Dorothy Men are. I’ve noticed that often, 

Margery He isn’t interested in art and literature like I am. 
When I have intellectual people up at the house he 
always seems rather out of it. 



SCENE I 


THE BREAD-WINNER 


221 


Dorothy Yes, I’ve noticed that Of course, he’s awfully 
mce, but he’s not exactly what you’d call brilliant, is he? 

Margery No, I’m afraid he isn’t, poor darling I suppose 
one can’t have everything, and he’s just as much in love 
with me to-day as the day we were married It’s rather 
beastly of me to find fault with him 

Dorothy That’s not finding fault One can’t be married to 
a man all those years without knowing what he is and 
what he isn’t, 

Margery I shudder to think what would happen if he ever 
suspected that for years now I haven’t cared for him, I 
mean, really cared 

Dorothy That’s one advantage we have, men don’t see 
things 

Margery Of course, I like him, you know, and I wouldn’t 
do anything to wound him But I am an intelligent 
woman, and I can’t help seeing he’s a bit of a bore 

Dorothy If you don’t mind my saying so, darling, the fact 
is, he has no sense of humour 

Margery I know It’s tragic I’m going to say something 
dreadful to you, Dorothy Have you ever asked yourself 
what you’d do if you were a widow'* 

Dorothy What woman hasn’t? 

Margery Of course, I’d be dreadfully upset if anything 
happened to poor Charlie I’d simply cry my eyes out, 
and at first I’d miss him dreadfully 

Dorothy That’s only natural I don’t know anyone who’s 
got so much heart as you have 

Margery But when once I’d got over the shock I believe 
I’d be very happy, you know* 

Dorothy* I’m sure you would With your fur hair you’d 
look too lovely in mourning 

Margery I’d never marry again* I think every woman 
should marry, but once is enough 



222 


THE BREAD-WINNER 


SCENE I 


Dorothy Oh, I like having a man about the house I think 
I’d be dreadfully lost without one 

Margery Well, I have so many resources m myself It 
would be lovely to be able to do exactly as you liked 
without consulting anybody And having your own 
friends And being free to run over to Pans or down to 
the Riviera without thinking Of course Charlie can’t get 
away and the poor old thing’ll be so lost without me 
And then there’s one’s own self-development You 
can’t really develop your personality properly when 
you’re married 

Dorothy Speaking of the Riviera, have you said anything 
to Charlie about the summer^ 

Margery It’s rather difficult Charlie wants to go on the 
river like we always do, so that he can go up to the city 
when he wants to 

Dorothy Why shouldn’t Alfred and Charlie go on the 
nver together? It’s so silly of husbands and wives always 
to take their holidays together It’s no change for either 
of them 

Margery It would be lovely for the children 

Dorothy They wouldn’t interfere with us at all They’d be 
bathing and boating all the time and they’re too young to 
go into the Baccarat rooms. My dear, we’d have the 
time of our lives 

Margery It sounds too divine 

Dorothy I saw some lovely pyjamas m Bond Street the 
other day You know they wear pyjamas all day long in 
summer 

Margery I know I suppose it would be frightfully 
expensive 

Dorothy What ts the use of money if you don’t spend it? 
And you can always tell Charlie it would be such an 
education for the children 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 223 

[Patrick appears , followed immediately by the others 
Patrick I say. Mummy, it is disgraceful, the court wasn’t 
marked out 

Margery Oh, I am sorry 

Patrick I’ve given the gardener hell He had the damned 
cheek to say he hadn’t had any orders 
Margery How stupid of him I know I meant to tell him 
Patrick The moment my back is turned everything goes 
wrong in this house 
Margery Is he doing it now? 

Patrick Yes, but it won’t be ready for a quarter of an hour 
I don’t know why Judy couldn’t see about it What’s she 
there for? 

Judy You seem to think I have nothing to do I was fear- 
fully busy this morning, and I forgot 
Patrick Well, you shouldn’t forget 
Margery Don’t be disagreeable the moment you get back, 
darling There’s lots of time 

Diana Let’s go and have a glass of lemonade Tim and I 
are simply parched 

Margery It’s in the dining-room You’ll find it on the 
sideboard 

Patrick I don’t know why we can’t have a hard court It’s 
absurd to ask people to play on grass now 

Timothy I’ve told Alfred that we absolutely must have one 
at our place I mean, you can’t expect to improve your 
game if you have to play on grass all the time 

Patrick You might talk to father. Mummy After all, if 
he wants us to live at home the least he can do is to pro- 
vide m with the ordinary necessities of existence 

Margery* It would be an awful expense 
Timothy You can get a very decent hard court for about 
four hundred pounds. 



SCENE I 


224 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Patrick That’s nothing Daddy couldn’t jib at that He 
hasn’t got anything to do with his money except spend it 
on us 

Margery That’s true 

Diana How about this lemonade? 

Judy Come on* 

[A ring at the door is heard 

Hullo, who’s that* Oh, God, I hope it’s not callers 

Margery I said I wasn’t at home to anybody to-day 

Patrick Fancy hying in a place where people pay calls 
This ts the back of beyond all right 

Margery Don’t be so silly, Pat There are a lot of very 
intelligent people who live here, and it’s a treat when 
they drop in for a chat over a cup of tea 

[The front door ts opened , and a voice ts heard asking for 
Mrs Battle 

Dorothy Why, it’s Alfred, 

Margery Open the door, Judy [As Judy does thts she 
calls ] Alfred! 

Alfred [Outside] Hullo, hullo, hullo 

Margery Come in* Dorothy’s here. 

[Alfred breezes in He ts a tall \ well set up, middle-aged 
man , with a red face and a hearty, blustering, jovial 
manner He laughs a great deal at everything be says 

Alfred [Taking Margery’s band] Hullo, popsy-wopsy 
[Seeing Patrick ] And look who’s here When did you 
breeze in, old bean? 

Patrick [Shaking hands with him ] I got back just before 
lunch 

Alfred Trust you for that And I bet you walloped into 
the fatted calf. 

Patrick [With hauteur,] I managed to swallow a morsel of 
cold chicken. 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 42 5 

Alfred And how does it feel to have left school for good, 
eh, young-feller-me-lad? 

Patrick Oh, all right 

Alfred Best days of your life, you know, old boy And 
when they’re gone they’re gone Can’t put the clock 
back if you try till doomsday That’s the way of the 
world Well, it’s not a bad old place if you have a front 
seat and take care that no one diddles you out of it 

Timothy You do talk the most footling rot, Alfred 

Dorothy Tim, you mustn’t be so rude to your father 

Alfred Let the little blighter say what he likes Respect be 
damned Tim and I are a couple of pals, aren’t we, old 
boy? 

Timothy Rather I say, old cock, what about the hard 
court? You said you’d think about it 

Alfred It’s a devil of a lot of money 

Timothy It’s not as if you couldn’t afford it Come on, old 
bean, be a sport 

Alfred [Beaming ] Well, if you put it like that. I’ll tell you 
what I’ll do. I’ll give it my favourable consideration 

Timothy Good. 

Alfred And how are you, Judy, old gaP Bit on the quiet 
side to-day, aren’t you? 

Judy I don’t think so. 

Alfred Love? 

Judy No 

Alfred When are you going to get married? 

Judy I’m not thinking of getting married 

Alfred And why not, if you please? 

Judy Well, for one reason nobody’s asked me. 

Alfred What? Why, my little early-girlie has three 
proposals a week* Don’t you, Dinah? 



226 THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE I 

Diana No, Alfred, I don’t 

Alfred Don’t you believe her I know And when I say I 
know, I know Paterfamilias But we can’t have little 
Judy-pudy neglected [To Timothy] Come along, 
young pie-face, you propose to her and then she can say 
she’s turned down a blood 

Timothy I’m not going to take a chance, like that, Alfred 
Judy Owl 

Dorothy Why have j ou left your office so early, Alfred^ 
Alfred A sudden desire to see my old Dolly-polly 
Dorothy Don’t be funny, Alfred 

Alfred I can’t help it, my dear I’ve tried, but it’s no 
good It’s my nature But, joking apart, as a matter of' 
fact I came along to see Charlie 
Margery He’s not here He’s in the city 

Alfred No, he isn’t At least I can’t get hold of him He 
hasn’t been at his office all day 

Margery That’s funny 

Alfred No, it isn’t To tell you the truth I’m just a teeny- 
weeny bit anxious 

Margery [Surprised] Why 3 
Alfred Hasn’t he told you anything ^ 3 
Margery No, what^ Has something happened ^ 3 

Alfred I suppose he thought if it came out all right there 
was no use bothering you, and if it didn’t you’d know 
quite soon enough 

Margery But what is it* 

Alfred Perhaps I oughtn’t to have said anything about it 
Patrick Father hasn’t gone bust. Uncle Alfred? 

Alfred I think you kiddie-widdies had better go out into 
the garden, Dorothy, you stay 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 2*7 

Patrick If anything’s the matter you may just as well tell us 
too Mummy will anyway, the moment you’ve gone 

Diana Come along, Tim We’ll go Shout when you’re 
through 

[Diana and Timothy go out into the garden 

Margery This isn’t another of your jokes, Alfred? 

Alfred I wish it were No, this is serious Did you happen 
to notice that a fellow called Tommy Avon shot himself 
last Friday? 

Margery Yes Dreadful, wasn’t it? We knew him We 
went to Ascot with him last year 

Patrick Who was Tommy Avon? 

Alfred He was very well known in the city He was one of 
your father’s clients Good fellow and all that One of 
the best But I’m afraid he’s let your governor down 
badly 

Margery But I always thought Charles had such a high- 
class business He never went in for anything speculative 

Alfred That’s why it’s such tough luck on him I flatter 
myself I’m about as shrewd as they make ’em, and I 
wouldn’t have hesitated to trust Tommy Avon with a 
million if I’d had it 

Judy But what’s actually happened? 

Alfred You wouldn’t understand if I told you But the 
long and short of it is that it’s settling-day to-day, and if 
your father hasn’t been able to get his pals to come to the 
rescue he’ll be hammered 

Judy What does that mean? 

Alfred Rum 

Margery [With aery of dismay ] OhI What shall we do? 

Dorothy Don’t give way. Marge It’s not certain yet 

Alfred Luckily for him he’s got some very good friends 
Of course, his whole private fortune will have to go in. 



228 


THE BREAD-WINNER 


SCENE I 


But if he’s able to raise a substantial sum outside he can 
weather the storm 

Patrick Shall we have to leave this house and give up the 
car^ 

Alfred I don’t know about that If he pulls through I 
daresay it won’t make much difference to his income 
He’s got a very sound business and a very good re- 
putation 

Patrick Oh, then things aren’t as bad as all that 

Alfred Except that all his savings are gone down the 
drain 

Margery Then if anything happened to him we’d be 
penniless? 

Patrick He’s as strong as a horse. Mummy I was only 
telling Judy just now that I thought he’d probably live to 
a hundred He’ll make another fortune all right 

Margery But what does it depend on, his pulling through^ 

Alfred Well, to put it shortly, it depends on whether 
Arthur Letter was willing to back him or not 

Patrick Who’s Arthur Letter? 

Alfred He’s the chairman of your father’s bank He was 
to give your father his decision last night 

Margery Oh, that’s why he only got in just in time to dress 
for dinner. We were dining at the Savoy 

Alfred How did he seem^ 

Margery Just about as usual, 

Alfred He can’t have been quite the same as usual At that 
moment it had just been decided whether he would have 
to file his petition in bankruptcy or could start with more 
or less of a clean slate. 

Margery* I didn’t notice anything I was afraid we’d be 
late for dinner, 

Alfred How about this morning? 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 22 $ 

Margery I had breakfast in my room Judy and he had 
breakfast together 

Alfred Did he seem up or down? 

Judy To tell you the truth I didn’t pay any attention I 
always read The Mirror at breakfast 

Alfred That’s a wash-out then He had an appointment 
with me at ten, but he never kept it It was damned 
important too That’s what puzzles me 

Judy He left here about half-past nine 

Margery Do you mean to say he hasn’t been at his office 
all day? 

Alfred No 

Patrick [With a gospel say . . 

[The thought occurs to them simultaneously that Charles 
may have killed himself 

Margery [With agitation] Oh, no, no, it’s impossible 
He couldn’t do anything so cruel to me 

Judy I wonder if he was rather strange this morning Oh, 
Uncle Alfred, it would be too awful if while we were 
eating kedgeree he was — he was making up his mind 
to 

Margery Judy, Judy* No. No He couldn’t do anything 
so cowardly 

Patrick. D’you think it’s possible. Uncle Alfred'* I say, 
it woulct be rotten 

Alfred Well, old boy, I don’t mind telling you that was 
m my mind when I got here I tried to be hearty like 
I always am, but between you and I and the gatepost 
it was a bit of an effort I daresay you noticed it 
Charlie’s the most punctilious fellow I’ve never known 
him cut a date in my life. 

Margery [Becoming a trifle hysterical *] No, no, no, no! I’m 
so frightened* 



SCENE I 


23O THE BREAD-WINNER 

Dorothy Darling, don’t After all, there’s no reason why 
you should believe the worst at once 
Margery But why wasn’t he at his office? On this day 
when it was so essential^ 

Alfred If anything was to be saved from the wreck at all 
Dorothy Perhaps he was knocked down by a taxi and is 
lying unconscious in some hospital 
Margery That wouldn’t be much consolation either 
Patrick But can’t we do something? 

Judy I think we ought to drag the Thames 
Patrick You fool, one can’t drag the Thames 
Judy Well, we can drag the ponds on the Heath 
Margery Oh, don’t, don’t He’s so proud He’s so 
sensitive I’ve got an awful fear that sooner than face 
us and tell us he’s ruined he’s 
Dorothy Don’t say it, Marge It’s so unlucky 
Patrick Oughtn’t we to go to the police? 

Alfred Not yet We should look such fools if he suddenly 
turned up 

Dorothy I’m all for telephoning round to the hospitals 
Margery We must do something I shall go mad 
Alfred If he doesn’t turn up to-mght, of course, we’ll get 
in touch with the police-stations 
Patrick Couldn’t we send out an S O S on the wireless? 

It’s what people generally do when someone disappears 
Judy That wouldn’t do much good if he’s lying at the 
bottom of Whitestone Pond 
Margery What a stigma on the children 
Dorothy* Oh, darling, don’t make things out worse than 
they are Alfred could always get the jury to bring in a 
verdict of temporarily insane 

Patricks Of course it may be that he’s only lost his memory 
and he’ll turn up somewhere in a few days. 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 2$1 

Judy Bournemouth That’s where they’re generally found 

Dorothy But, Alfred, why can’t you ring up that man who 
was going to back him? Then we shall know if Charlie 
had any reason to do anything desperate or not 

Alfred Arthur Letter^ It’s not so easy as all that to get 
hold of the chairman of a great London bank I don’t 
suppose he’d tell me anything if I did 

Dorothy Well, you can try 

Margery Please, Alfred I’m so terribly anxious 

Alfred All right. I’ll see if he’ll speak to me He can’t 
eat me 

[He goes out 

Margery The suspense is too awful 

Patrick Did father go out in his top-hat this morning^ 

Margery Oh, Pat, don’t be so silly This isn’t the moment 
to think of top-hats 

Patrick I don’t agree with you I particularly want to 
know 

Judy I think so I should have noticed it if he hadn’t 

Patrick Then he can’t have been meditating suicide when 
he left this house 

Margery Why not^ 

Patrick Mummy darling, no man in his senses would 
commit suicide in a top-hat 

Judy But if he was temporarily insane he wasn’t in his 
senses 

Patrick Don’t be idiotic, Judy What can you know 
about men? A chap who was going to commit suicide 
would naturally put on a cap or at the outside a bowler 

Margery Oh, no, Pat, your father was always so par- 
ticular He would never have gone out in a tail coat 
uid a cap, whatever he was going to do Never Never 



SCENE I 


232 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Patrick That’s what I say, if he went out m a topper he 
hasn’t committed suicide 

Judy I don’t see why not Supposing he jumped m the 
river, he could always have left it on the tow-path 

Patrick And have people come along and say, Hullo, 
what’s a bran-new topper doing on the tow-path? 

Dorothy What ts Alfred doing^ 

Margery Isn’t r awful to think that only a few minutes 
ago we were all so happy We were talking of going 
down to the Riviera for the summer We hadn’c a care 
in the world And now this terrible thing has happened 

Judy Life is like that 

Patrick Oh, God, you are a gloom, Judy If you haven’t 
got anything cheerful to say, for God’s sake shut up 

Judy I don’t see any object in not facing facts I’m psychic 
I’m absolutely convinced that Daddy’s lying at the 
bottom of Whitestone Pond 

[Alfred comes tn 

Alfrfd Well, boys and girls, it’s all right Good news 

Margery Alfred! 

Alfred I just mentioned my name, and they put me 
through to Sir Arthur at once I didn’t give anything 
away. Trust your Unde Alfred for that He told me 
he’d seen Charlie last night at his private house and in 
consideration of Charlie’s personal character he’d agreed 
to let him have enough money to meet all his obligations 

Margery Oh, my dear, how awfully nice of him 

Alfred When old Charhe-parlie left Sir Arthur’s sump- 
tuous mansion, he had a whacking fat cheque in his 
pocket 

Margery What a relief! 

Dorothy But why hasn’t he been at his office to-day? 

Alfred Oh, ..that's a minor point* I suppose he’s been 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER *$$ 

tearing round and hadn’t any time He’ll tell u$ that 
when we see him The great thing is that he’s weathered 
the storm 

Patrick Then we’re not ruined after all? 

Alfred No Your father’s taken a toss, but he’s in the 
saddle again, and there’s no reason why in a few years 
he shouldn’t be where he was Of course, he’ll have to 
work like blazes 

Judy Daddy loves work That’s one thing 

Alfred He’ll have to keep his nosy-posy to the grind- 
stone 

Patrick Oh, well, there’s no harm in that. At Daddy’s 
age there’s nothing much for a chap to do except work 

Margery I used to be sorry that he had no outside interests, 
but as things have turned out, I daresay it’s all for the 
best 

Alfred You kiddie-widdies mustn’t be extravagant, you 
know. For some time your father won’t have any spare 
cash to throw about 

Patrick I’ve thought of that I’m willing to do my bit 
We shall have to make do with the family bus for a bit 
longer, Judy old girl 

Judy It is sickening, isn’t it? I suppose it can’t be helped 
And we shan’t be able to have a hard court either 

Margery Call the others in, Judy There’s no reason they 
should stay out any longer 

Judy All right [At tbs window ] Dinah, Timl Come jxx 

Margery And then you’d better play tennis if you want to 

Judy After all this excitement I couldn’t hit a ball 

Alfred Are you going to play tennis? I’ll just nip over 
the garden wall and change I don’t mind showing you 
young things that there’s life in the old dog yet 

[DiaIna and Timothy stroll tn. 



SCENE I 


254 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Judy Oh, my dear, we've had such a thrill Daddy's 
vanished and we all thought he'd committed suicide 
And we were ruined and everything had to be sold, 
and now it's all right and Daddy hasn't committed 
suicide after all 

Diana If you were going to tell us all about it, it seems 
hardly worth while to have turned us out of the room 

Judy I didn't want you to go It was grand Mummy was 
in hysterics And Pat was keeping a stiff upper lip, and 
I was being the brave little woman 

Diana Do you mean to say it was all a false alarrcP 

Timothy You know Alfred and his little jokes You 
oughtn't to let him get away with them. He only gets 
above himself 

Alfred Now then, young feller-me-lad, not so much of 
your lip We're not out of the blooming old wood yet 

Patrick We're ruined all right 

Judy But the only difference it’ll make is that Pat can't 
have a car of his own, and we shall have to go on with 
the old court until Daddy makes some more money 

Timothy I say, that's a bit thick 

Patrick If they can play on grass at Wimbledon I suppose 
on a pinch we can too 

Alfred That's the spirit, old bean. I'm jolly glad to see 
that you're taking it like a sportsman. 

Diana* And where's Uncle Charlie? 

Patrick We don't know that 

Margery We wish we did We wish to God we did 

Judy- We think he's lost his memory and is sitting on a 
bench at Bournemouth in a top-hat. 

Patrick. He's much more likely to be at Southend, 



SCENE I THE BREAD-WINNER 235 

Margery Oh, no Even if your poor father had lost his 
memory it would never occur to him to go to Southend, 
[The door ts opened and Charles strolls amiably tn 
He ts a man tn the early forties , quiet and of rather 
distinguished appearance, he ts very neat tn hts Hack 
coat and gey striped trousers He wears a top-bat 
Margery Charlie! 

THE CURTAIN FALLS 



SCENE n 


l De curtain rises All are present but Charles 

Patrick If they can play on grass at Wimbledon, I suppose 
on a pinch we can too 

Alfred That’s the spint, old bean I’m jolly glad to see 
that you’re taking it like a sportsman 

Diana And where’s Uncle Charlie? 

Patrick We don’t know that 

Margery We wish we did We wish to God we did 

Judy We think he’s lost his memory and is sitting on a 
bench at Bournemouth in a top-hat 

Patrick He’s much more likely to be at Southend 

Margery Oh, no Even if your poor father had lost his 
memory it would never occur to him to go to Southend 
[Tie door ts opened , and Charles strolls amiably in 

Margery Charlie! 

Charles [Taking off bis bat ] Hullo 

Margery [Much agitated ] Where have you been** Oh, 
we’ve been so anxious It’s too bad of you 

Charles What have I done? 

Margery The suspense has been too awful 

Charles [Coolly ] Why, what’s the matter? Hullo, Pat 
Home for the holidays^ 

Patrick Hullo, Daddy 

Charles STou look all right Had a nice time your last 
term at school, 

Patrick Yes, grand 

230 



SCENE H THE BREAD-WINNER 237 

Charles How’s everybody^ Back from the city early, 
Alfred? Don’t tell me you’re idling 

Alfred I say, old boy, where the devil have you been? 
I’ve been trying to get hold of you all day long 

Charles P I’ve been for a walk on Hampstead Heath 

Alfred A walk? 

Margery All day> 

Charles No, I found rather a jolly little pub and had lunch 
there A cut off the joint and a bottle of beer Very 
nice 

Alfred Why didn’t you go to your office^ 

Judy We were sure you’d committed suicide 

Patrick Judy wanted to have Whitestone Pond dragged 

Margery We’ve been so frightfully anxious, Charlie 

Charles I may be very dense, but I don’t quite understand 
what you’re all talking about 

Alfred Well, old boy, I had to tell them You see, you 
didn’t keep your appointment with me, and you hadn’t 
turned up at the office 

Charles Oh, I see [Amiably ] Well, now you know, don’t 

, y° u? 

Patrick We know it’s all right. Daddy 

Alfred They were all so upset they persuaded me to call 
up Arthur Letter He told me what he’d done. 

Charles Sporting of him, wasn’t lP 

Judy Were you absolutely broke. Daddy? 

Charles I couldn’t comply with my bargains. 

Judy What does that mean? 

Charles Well, when a broker can’t comply with his 
bargains he’s hammered 

Alfred And then he can’t trade any more 



23& THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE II 

Charles How are you, Dorothy? You’ve got a new hat on 
Dorothy [Alluringly ] D’you like it? How clever of you to 
notice 

Alfred Look here, Charlie, we must have a talk Tim, 
you and Dinah had better make yourselves scarce 
Timothy All right 

Patrick Sorry, old man I’m afraid tennis looks like being 
a wash-out 

Timothy Oh, that’s all right I know what these domestic 
upsets are 

Patrick It’s one of the penalties of having a family 
Charles Why don’t you and Dinah go and have a knock- 
up? Pat and Judy can join you presently 
Timothy I don’t mind 
Charles I shan’t keep them long 
Timothy Oh, that’s all right There’s no hurry* 

Charles [With a tinge of irony ] Thanks 
Diana Come on, then 

[Diana and Timothy saunter out 
Dorothy Do you wish me to go, too? 

Margery No, stay, Dorothy I’ve got a presentiment that 
something is, rotten in the state of Denmark* 

Alfred My dear. I’m afraid that this is no time for culture 
Margery I know That is why I want Dorothy to stay 
There are moments when a woman wants another 
woman’s support 

Alfred Where have you been all day, Charlie? I rang up 
every place I could think of 

Charles I told you I’ve been for a walk on Hampstead 
Heath 

Alfred" But you had an appointment to see me at ten* 
Charles [Smiling] 1 can’t tell you how excruciatingly the 
idea of seeing you at ten bored me. 



SCENE n THE BREAD-WINNER 239 

Alfred Thank you You made the appointment yourself 
Margery "What did you do on the Heath^ 

Charles I walked I thought I admired the scenery 
Alfred "When every minute was of vital importance? 
Charles That, too, added to the charm of the prospect 
Patrick I don’t wish to cast a gloom on the party, but it 
sounds to me as though father were trying to be 
facetious 

Margery Don’t be silly, Pat You know your father isn’t 
like that 

Alfred [Shrewdly ] There’s more in this than meets the eye 
I have no hesitation in saying that whatever 
Charles It was a bad blow for me, you know, when 
Tommy Avon shot himself [He makes this remark con- 
versationally , with deliberation , but not as though be attached 
great importance to what he was saying ] 

Alfred It was the best thing he could do If he hadn’t 
he’d have got fourteen years 
Charles It cost me a packet 

Alf red And you’re not the only one A lot of my clients 
have been hit Damned scoundrel 
Charles I was proud of my firm I took a harmless vanity 
in the fact that my name stood so high on the Stock 
Exchange It was a source of a good deal of satisfaction 
to me to know that people pointed me out and said. 
Good fellow, Charlie Battle, safe as the Bank of 
England 

Alfred That’s why Arthur letter was willing to help you 
when you were up against it Character is the best asset 
any man can have in the City 
Charles When the crash came my first thought was to 
save the firm I was prepared to sacrifice every bob I 
Jbad to keep my head above water. By George, there 
wasn’t a stone I left unturned 



SCENE II 


2^ THE BREAD-WINNER 

Alfred You don’t have to tell me that No one could 
have done more 

Charles* And last night, at the eleventh hour, you might 
say, I did the trick I was saved I don’t mind telling 
you it was a relief 

Alfred I’ll bet it was 

Charles You know, this is settling-day It had been a 
nightmare Last night I knew I could comply with my 
bargains All my savings had to go down the dram, 
but I didn’t care a damn The old firm was saved and 
my reputation was all right Funny thing, honour, isn’t 
it? And the importance we attach to it I suppose it’s 
the force of habit 

Judy You’ve been rather wonderful, Daddy No one could 
have guessed anything particular was happening, could 
they. Mummy? 

Margery No, dear, I never dreamt anything was wrong 

Charles I’m glad of that I was afraid I’d been a trifle 
disagreeable 

Judy [Quite pleasantly ] No, not more than usual 

Charles I was in great spirits when I left the house this 
morning You’d have thought I’d made a fortune 
instead of lost one I walked to the tube as I’ve walked 
every morning, more or less since I was demobbed 
I nodded to one or two people I knew All going down 
to the City just as I was I got to the station There 
was the usual crowd hurrying in Suddenly my 
heart sank 

Judy Why? 

Charles Well, my dear, you know, once or twice during 
these last days it looked as though I couldn’t pull 
through And as I lay awake at night turning things 
over, I thought of what I’d do if I went broke I made 
pretty elaborate plans It relieved me I didn’t see why 



SCENE II 


THE BREAD-WINNER 


241 


I shouldn’t make the best of a bad job Well, I weathered 
the storm and I was in a position to start all over again 
I could go on quite quietly to the end of my life doing 
what I’d done every day for the last twelve years, going 
down to the City and studying the markets, buying and 
selling stock Suddenly it seemed to me that for me 
rum meant life and liberty — and that tube, with all 
those people hurrying to catch their tram, led to slavery 
and death So I went for a stroll on Hampstead Heath 

Margery But, Charlie, my dear, that was only nerves I 
mean, that’s the sort of thing we’re all liable to since 
the war All of us who went through that awful expens 
ence bear its mark I know I do And I expect to bear 
it always 

Judy But, Mummy, you had the time of your life when 
you were working in your canteens 

Margery Oh, Judy, how can you say anything so beastly^ 
I was on my feet for hours on end I could never have 
stood it except that I was determined to do my bit 

Alfred You know, Judy old gal, you were only a baby 
You don’t know what we went through during that 
terrible time, and, please God, you never will know 

Judy Well, I’ll tell you what I think Except when you 
were actually under fire you had more fun than you’ve 
ever had before or since My belief is that if there was 
another war the greatest majority of you would just 
jump back into it with a whoop 

Alfred We answered the call when it came, and if it came 
again we’d answer it again 

Margery But not with a whoop, darling With death in 
our hearts 

Alfred Do you realise how great a sacrifice we made then? 
And we made it for you 

Patrick For us? 



242 THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE II 

Alfred Yes, for you and Judy and Dinah and Tim For 
your generation 

Patrick You make me laugh Why, we're the sacrifice 
you made 

Judy And if you think we like it. Uncle Alfred, you’re 
mistaken 

Alfred Well, upon my word You were only just born 
when it started I really can’t see that it affected you 
much 

Patrick Don’t you^ Whichever way we turn it’s there 
facing us It’s been like a great weight round our necks 
all our lives We have the right to live like every other 
generation, and you’ve crabbed our pitch before we 
start 

Alfred But we didn’t want the war It was forced on us 

Judy No, you didn’t want the war You just muddied 
into it, and then you muddled through it, and then you 
muddled out of it You muddled your lives and you’ve 
muddled ours 

Margery That’s so ungrateful, Judy You’ve always had 
the best of everything I’m sure no one could have had 
better chances than you’ve had 

Patrick But you don’t understand. Mother All our lives 
we’ve been surrounded by depression and anxiety, and, 
of course, it’s had its effect on us You’ve sapped our 
vitality You’ve made a mess of the world and you’ve 
taken away our power to put it right 

Judy If a man can’t get a job, it’s the war If he’s slack and 
incompetent, it’s the war If he forges a cheque or 
commits bigamy, it’s the war If the roads are bad and 
the trains rotten, it’s the war If we’re crippled with 
debts and taxes, it’s the war 

Alfred Everyone knows it left behind it a long train of 
problems and difficulties We’ve got to face that 



SCENE II THE BREAD-WINNER «43 

Judy But why should me? Why should we suffer for your 
stupidity^ 

Charles You know, there’s some truth in what the child 
says about the war We weren’t always frightened, we 
weren’t always cold, we weren’t always hungry There 
were times when it was no end of a lark 

Alfred To me it was unmitigated horror 

Charles Oh, come off it We talk a lot of bunk to the 
younger generation in order to show them what stern 
stuff we’re made of, but, damn their eyes, they don’t 
believe us Let’s face it You loved being a temporary 
gent A good deal of authority and no responsibility 
to speak of There were long periods when one could 
be thoroughly idle without one’s conscience reproaching 
one And there was a lot of excitement All I got out 
of the war was pneumonia, a wound in the hip, a cracked 
skull and a temporary captaincy But it’s an experience 
I wouldn’t have missed 

Margery It’s a miracle that you returned at all 

Judy Wasn’t it an awful let-down when you came back, 
Daddy^ 

Charles You know, I got a lot of fun out of thinking I 
was alive I was thirty I said to myself. Well, I’ve 
lost the five best years of my youth, but it’s no good 
grousing, let me make the best of what remains That 
was twelve years ago And now my youth has gone 

Alfred No one can say you haven’t made good use of it 
Like a great many others at the end of the war you 
had to start again at the beginning You haven’t done 
so badly You’ve had a nice house and a car and you’ve 
kept your wife in the sort of way your position required 
You’ve sent your children to first-rate schools You had 
saved a bit of money 

Charles Fifty thousand pounds, roughly. 



SCENE II 


244 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Alfred It’s true that through no fault of your own that’s 
gone, but all the rest remains You’ve still got your 
position and you can make more money I don’t think 
you’ve got much to complain of 

Charles [ELeflectmly ] Of course, it’s not out of his solid 
clients that a broker makes his money He makes it 
out of the speculator Whether he’s a gambler who 
wants a flutter for the excitement of it, or a fool who 
f hi nics he can make money without working for it, the 
result is always the same It’s only a question of time 
before the whole of his money finds its way into the 
broker’s pocket 

Alfred That’s the speculator’s look-out 

Charles Of course But sometimes I couldn’t help asking 
myself if it was to spend my life so tamely that I’d 
escaped death a score of times by a hair’s-breadth 

Patrick I shouldn’t have thought it was tame 

Charles You’ve never been in the Stock Exchange, have 
you^ Pity I didn’t take you in one day It would have 
interested you 

Judy I thought strangers couldn’t get in 

Charles No, they’re not allowed, and if they’re caught 
they must expect to be hustled a bit They’ll probably 
want a new hat 

Alfred You could have smuggled him m as one of your 
clerks No one would have taken any notice of him 
It’s an amazing sight 

Charles It’s indescribable There’s a hell of a row, you 
know 

Alfred Deafening 

Charles Everyone’s yelling at the top of his voice, and 
men are rushing about like mad I must say, at first 
there’s something rather exhilarating about it, That 
frantic activity does give you a thrilling sensation of life 



SCENE II THE BREAD-WINNER 245 

Alfred By Jove, it does 

Charles YouVe never heard a man hammered, have you, 
Alfred? 

Alfred No, I haven’t 

Charles It’s impressive At three o’clock, for instance, as 
the hour strikes [The clock in the drawing-room strikes 
three ] Just as that clock is striking now, the two waiters 
appear on the stands and take off their hats, as if to a 
corpse, They beat with a wooden mallet three times 
Fellows look up and that deafening row stops Suddenly, 
as though it had been cut with a knife And it’s so still 
you really could hear a pin drop However often you’ve 
heard it, the sound of that mallet ringing through the 
deathly silence is frightening The waiter at the Consol 
Market end reads out a notice, and the waiter at the 
Mining Market end repeats it “Gentlemen, Mr Charles 
Laurence Battle, trading as Wargrave, Battle & Co , is 
unable to comply with his bargains ” They read in a 
loud, hoarse voice, without any expression in it, they’ve 
read the same sort of things so often, and then they 
shuffle off the stands There’s a moment’s pause, and 
however hardened you are, there’s something tragic in 
it They’re good fellows on the Stock Exchange most 
of them, and a bit sentimental, and it gives one a pang 
to think someone’s beaten It may have been just bad 
luck It may have been that one bit off more than one 
could chew If you’re up, you can afford to be sorry 
for the man who’s down, and if you’re shaky, you 
wonder if it’ll be your turn next Yes, just for a moment 
dismay fills every heart, and then, before you can say 
Jack Robinsog, as suddenly as the row stopped, the row 
begins again Pandemonium Charles Laurence Battle* 
trading as Wargrave, Battle & Co , is forgotten The 
world has passed him by 

[Suddenly there is a ring on the telephone in the balL 



THE BREAD-WINNER 


SCENE II 


246 


Margery See who it is, Judy 

Charles if it’s anyone for me I’m not at home Nevermind 
how urgent* 

Judy: All right. 

[She goes out 

Alfred Well, old boy, Fm glad you’ve escaped that It’s 
true you’ve lost a packet, but you’ll make it again While 
there’s life there’s hope 

Dorothy Have you been terribly anxious all these days, 
Charlie^ 

Charles I have a bit 

Margery Why didn’t you tell me? 

Charles Oh, my dear, there didn’t seem any object in 
worrying you 

[Judy comes tn agatn 

Judy It’s Mr Turner He wants awfully to speak to you. 
Daddy, and when I said you were out he seemed all 
fussed and bothered 

Charles That’s nice of him I hope you lied like my own 
daughter 

Judy He asked me if I knew where he could get hold of 
Unde Alfred, and I told him he was here He’s holding 
the line* 

Alfred I wonder what he wants me for? 

Dorothy You’d better go and see, Alfred 

[Alfred gets up and goes out * 

Margery Will this interfere with our summer holiday, 
Charlie ? % 

Dorothy* Marge and I -were thinking it would be so good 
for the children if we went down to the Riviera for a 
change 

Margery I like the over, but I do realise that it would be 



SCENE II THE BREAD-WINNER 247 

much more of an education for them to take them to 
France And everyone’s going to Antibes now 
Judy Oh, Mummy, that would be too divine And Tim 
and Dinah too^ 

Dorothy Well, I haven’t spoken to Alfred about it yet 
Your mother and I have been putting our heads 
together 

Margery Of course, before all this happened 
Dorothy [To Judy ] I suppose your father couldn’t get away, 
but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind your going We’d go 
to some cheap pension, and really I don’t suppose it 
would be any more expensive than staying in England 

Margery Naturally we’d have to be frightfully economical 
Judy Oh, Daddy, do say yes It would be awful fun 
Wouldn’t it, Pat^ 

Patrick Not so dusty. 

[Alfred, distraught , hursts into the room 
Alfred Charlie, he says you’re hammered 
Charles [Coolly ] Well, what of it^ 

Alfred He’s frightfully upset He said he understood 
everything had been arranged Charlie, it’s not true, 
is it? 

Charles [Sardonically ] Yes, my boy, the waiter went 
knocky-knocky with his little mallet and poor old 
Charlie-parlie was blown sky high 
Alfred It’s not true, Cha r lie You don’t know what 
you’re saying For God’s sake pull yourself together, 
old bean 

Margery Oh, Chatbe, what has happened? 

Alfred [Emphatically ] What do you mean, Charlie? 
Charles Only that at the very moment that I was so 
dramatically describing to you what happens when a 
man is hammered on the Stock Exchange, I was actually 



24? THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE n 

being hammered Don’t you remember, I called your 
attention to the clock striking three^ 

Patrick I hate these cheap theatrical effects 
Charles I have a simple mind They get me every time 
Judy If one didn’t know Daddy had no sense of humour 
one would think he’d just been pulling our leg 
Charles You see, as three o’clock approached and I knew 
what was going to happen, I felt a trifle lonely on 
Hampstead Heath I suddenly craved for the society 
of my fellows 

Margery I can’t believe it It’s so fantastic 
Charles They say that when the dying buffalo feels his end 
approaching, he leaves his herd and retires into solitude 
In that respect I am unlike the dying buffalo 
Alfred It’s not often I’m puzzled But I am now, and I 
don’t mind admitting it You could have complied with 
your bargains perfectly well 
Charles I didn’t choose to 

Alfred You had Arthur Letter’s cheque in your pocket 
Charles I have it still. [He takes a cheque out of his pocket 
and hands it to Alfred ] Perhaps you wouldn’t mind 
sending it back to him and telling him that I made up 
my mind not to avail myself of his kindness 
Alfred There’s more in this than meets the eye I have 
no hesitation in saying that 
Margery But then we’re ruined 
Dorothy Oh, Margery, how awful! 

Alfred You cut along, Dorothy 
Dorothy AU right [To Margery ] I’ll be in the garden 
in case you want me, dear* 

Margery All right, dear 

[Dorothy goes out . 

Judy D'you want us to go. Uncle Alfred? 



SCENE II THE BREAD-WINNER 249 

Charles Oh, I think you'd better stay I have one or two 
things to say that a good deal concern you 

Patrick But if you're hammered we're in the soup. Daddy 

Charles Up to the neck, my boy 

Patrick I don't know what there is to be so damned 
cheerful about. 

Alfred Neither do I, believe me Your father has let 
himself be hammered when he actually had in his pocket 
the means of saving himself 

Patrick But what's the big ldea^ 

Alfred Of course, he'd had a knock But he isn't the only 
one Why, I know brokers who've made and lost half 
a dozen fortunes in their time On the Stock Exchange 
you have to take the rough with the smooth 

Patrick That's when a fellow shows his gnt, when he's 
down and out 

Charles [With a smile in bis eyes] True, my son You're 
presently going to have an opportunity of showing 
yours 

Alfred But how did you have the heart to let an old- 
established business like yours go to blazes^ 

Charles I steeled it I don't deny that when the clock 
struck three just now it gave me a funny little feeling 
in the pit of my stomach 

Margery Your poor father was so proud of the business, 
Charlie He always said there wasn't a more respectable 
firm in the city of London 

Alfred What are you going to do now? 

Charles [Casualty ] I'm going abroad 

Margery [In sudden agitation] Charlie, you haven't done 
anything dreadful? They're not going to issue a 
warrant^ 

Charles No, no, my dear However dishonourable my 



250 THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE II 

conduct may be, I have done nothing that the law can 
take exception to 

Margery* [Helplessly ] One never knows with brokers. It’s 
such a funny profession 

Alfred My God, this is a pretty kettle of fish For good- 
ness* sake, explain yourself, Charlie A man doesn’t 
commit suicide for fun 

Charles The explanation is very simple This morning I 
came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth it 

Alfred What^ 

Charles This life I’ve been leading For twelve mortal 
years I’ve been going down to the Qty in the same tube* 
I’ve spent the day buying and selling shares, for twelve 
mortal years I’ve come home every evening in the same 
tube And the world was rolling on and on I’m fed 
up Fed to the teeth I’m not going to be the drudge 
of respectability any longer I’m through Look [He 
takes bsghstemng topper ] Here is the badge of my office 
This is the symbol of my position and my respectability 
Sleek, shining, new and rakish Look at it It represents 
the potentiality of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice 
To hell with it [He fltngs tt doom on the floor , stamps on 
it and kecks tt away from him ] 

Margery Charlie, Charlie, Charlie And you who were 
always so particular about your hats. Oh, what is going 
to become of us now^ 

Patrick Are you obliged to be so melodramatic, father? 

Charles In moments of emotion we’re all apt to fall into 
it, my dear boy, 

Judy And what about us, Daddy? 

Charles I’m going to leave you, 

Patrick, How long for? 

Charles For good. 

Patrick, [With the utmost surprise ] Whvi 



SCENE H THE BREAD - VINNER Z$t 

Charles [Very naturally ] Because Pm bored with you 

Patrick Bored with us* Bored with me and Judy* 

Charles Yes, bored with you and Judy Aren't you bored 
with me* 

Patrick That's different You're our father 

Charles How is it different* 

Patrick People are always rather bored with their parents* 
That's human nature 

Charles Is it* 

Patrick After all, they belong to a different generation* 
The middle-aged are naturally tedious 

Charles [Smthng ] Has it never struck you that the middle- 
aged find the young tedious too? 

Patrick It certainly hasn't 

Charles They do 

Patrick But why? They're not tedious 

Charles Oh, aren't they? 

Patrick How can they be* They’ve got youth and high 
spirits. They're brimming over with ideas Aren't they. 
Mummy* 

Margery Yes, darling, of course 

Patrick It's absurd to say that Judy and I are boring 
What would this house be without us* A mausoleum 
At meals we're the life and soul of the party Aren't we, 
Judy* 

Judy Rather 

Patrick* Ask anyone you like and they'll all tell you the 
same thing* We've got the reputation all over the place 
for being unusually brilliant* If you find us boring it 
can only be on account of your own stupidity 

Margery Oh, that is rude, Pat* You shouldn't talk to your 
father like that 



SCENE II 


2J2 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Patrick: He asked for it, and, damn it all* what other 
explanation is there^ 

Margery I don’t know, darling 

Patrick It’s so ungrateful 

Charles I don’t suppose you’re more boring than most 
young things of your age I daresay it’s only because 
I know you better that you bore me more 

Patrick But isn’t youth enough in itselP You can’t be so 
unintelligent as not to realise that nowadays the only 
thing that counts is youth And it’s because we’ve 
discovered that, that our generation is so much ahead 
of every other You know what I mean, Judy, don’t 
you^ 

Judy Of course I do In Daddy’s time when they were 
young they just wanted to be older 

Patrick That’s right And we don’t We’re young and we 
want to enjoy our youth For the first time m the world’s 
history we’ve realised the immense value of it 

Margery Of course, it’s lovely to be young 

Patrick Your lives would be nothing without us Think 
of the exhilaration we bring and the vitality and go 
I mean, to say we’re boring is perfectly outrageous I 
don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I can honestly 
say that’s the last thing anyone could call Judy, and I 
think I can safely say that she’d say the same abput me 

Judy Absolutely 

Charles [Amtablj ] I wonder if it has ever occurred to 
you how tiresome the conversation of the young is to 
the middle-aged Chatter, chatter, chatter about nothing 
at all Just to hear yourselves speak And you take 
yourselves with such appalling seriousness You know 
nothing, and you haven’t the sense to hold your tongues 
You utter the most obvious commonplace with the air 
of having made a world-shaking discovery You’re so 



SCENE II THE BREAD-WINNER *55 

solemn You’re so self-satisfied You’re so dogmatic 
You’re mane The only excuse for you is that you’re 
very young One tries to have patience with you But, 
my God, don’t think we find you amusing We find 
you quite incredibly dull 

[Judy gives a smothered chuckle 

Patrick Shut up, Judy This is no laughin£ matter I 
can tell you this. Daddy, this is the last tirr e 1 take any 
trouble to be gay and jolly and amusing m this house 
God knows, it’s been an uphill job, but I’ve done my 
best I’ve just sweated my guts out But now I’m 
through, definitely and absolutely through 
Judy But have you no affection for us, Daddy^ 

Charles No, I haven’t 

Margery Oh, Charlie, what a cruel thing to say How can 
\ou help loving your children^ 

Charles I rather liked them when they were kids, but now 
they’re grown up I don’t find them very interesting 
Patrick [Outraged ] But that’s simply unnatural 
Charles D’youthinkitis? I don’t Of course, when they’re 
small one’s fond of one’s children One likes them as 
one likes puppies or kittens They’re dependent on you, 
and that’s rather touching They think you’re very 
marvellous, and that’s rather flattering But almost 
before you know where you are, they’re young men and 
women with characters of their own They’re not part 
of you any more They’re individuals They’re strangers 
Why should you care for them' 1 
Patrick* Do you mean to say that Judy and I mean no 
more to you than if we were puppies or kittens^ 

Charles No, I mean that you don’t mean very much more 
to me than puppies mean to their father when they’re 
grown into fine healthy young dogs 
Judy But you’d be sorry w if we died. Daddy? 



SCENE n 


Z54 t'he bread-winner 

Charles Wretched I’ve been frightfully worried when 
either of you has been ill I was devoted to you then 
Perhaps it’s unfortunate that on the whole you’ve both 
had robust health 

Patrick You can hardly expect us to have a series of ill- 
nesses just to excite your parental affection 
Charles You’re right, Pat I should certainly congratulate 
myself oa the excellent physique I was able to endow 
you with 

Patrick I should have thought you’d be so proud of us 
I’ve always been in the first five in all my forms, and 
I was head of my house I was captain of the first eleven, 
and in the first fifteen Any unprejudiced person would 
say I was rather a credit to you 
Charles You know, to be proud of one’s children is really 
and truly only to be proud of oneself I’m not a vain 

triq n 

Patrick Well, I’m dished 
Charles Do you care very much for me, PatP 
Margery Of course he does, Charlie I’ve never known 
two more affectionate children 
Charles Let him answer for himself, 

Patrick I don’t know what you mean I like you as a chap 
naturally likes his father You’re not going about it 
exactly the right way to make me crazy about you 
Charles I suppose if I died you’d cry a bit That would 
be nice of you and very proper But I’m all alive and 
kicking Don’t you find me rather a nuisance^ Don’t 
you resent having to come to me for money, and my 
wanting to know how you’re going to spend n? 
Patrick. Well, naturally, any fellow of my age wants to be 
his own master 

Charles Hasn’t it ever struck you that it would he grand 
to have a flat of your own? 



SCENE II THE BREAD-WINNER 

Patrick I don’t see what that’s got to do with it, 

Charles It doesn’t suggest that you find the family circle 
precisely thrilling 

Patrick But you can’t alter the facts of life It’s human 
nature that parents should be frightfully fond of their 
children But they can’t expect their children to be 
frightfully fond of them 

Margery Oh, Pat 

Patrick Well, ask Uncle Alfred He’s a man of the world 
He doesn’t expect Tim and Dinah to be as keen on him 
as he is on them. 

Alfred There you’re very much mistaken, young feller- 
me-lad I flatter myself that there’s nowhere in this 
country a more united family than ours But then I 
admit my kiddie-widdies weren’t brought up as you 
were Dorothy and I have made fnends of our children 
That’s why we’ve always made them call us by our first 
names Our family life is just a grand lark You know 
how we chaff one another They look upon me as their 
great big brother* Why, they just roar with laughter 
at my jokes 

[Patrick and Judy exchange a look 

Charles I’ve come to the conclusion that such clever and 
intelligent children as you are can get along quite 
comfortably without me And as that suits my con- 
venience, I’m going to give you the opportunity of 
doing so 

Patrick But how are we to hve> It means that Judy will 
just have to go on the streets 

Judy Don’t be so silly, Pat You boys are so ignorant 

Patrick Well, if father leaves us without a bob, there’s 
nothing else you can do 

Judy Don’t you know that since the war the amateurs have 
entirely driven the professionals out of business? No 
girl can make a decent living now by prostitution 



SCENE II 


256 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Margery Judy, Judy, what are you talking about? Really, 
a girl of your age I don’t know what the world is 
coming to 

Patrick How am I to go up to Cambridge and read for 
the Bar* 

Charles Are you still proposing to enter Parliament in 
the Labour interest? 

Patrick That’s the idea ultimately, of course 

Charles Don’t you think the Labour Party are beginning 
to fight a tnfle shy of the people like you, who only 
joined them when it looked like a good thing, and now 
grab all the plums? 

Patrick They want people of our class 

Charles Have you ever reflected upon St PauP He was 
a tent-maker, you know He got a lot of kudos out 
of it 

Patrick Damn it all. Father, we’re talking seriously now, 
don’t bring in religion 

Charles You know, I believe it would pay you to become 
a working man A stoker, for instance, or a dustman 

Patrick Me? 

Charles Get to know the proletariat from the inside, my 
dear boy, and when you’re all fighting for the spoils of 
office you’ll have the bulge over the Eton boy and the 
Oxford graduate 

Alfred You’re talking through your hat, Charlie It’s just 
when children are growing up and entering the world 
that they need a father’s guidance You can’t leave them 
in the lurch like that 

Charles Oh, can’t I? You wait and see 

Alfred Penniless? 

Charles No, not exactly penniless That would require 
more fortitude than I possess. 



SCENE II THE BREAD-WINNER 257 

Patrick But haven’t you lost everything^ 

Margery Most brokers have something tucked away some- 
where, Pat, that their creditors can’t get at 
Charles I’m afraid I haven’t Until to-day I’ve been what 
I can only describe as the soul of honour 
Patrick Well, then, you haven’t a bob 
Charles In order to comply with my bargains, I should 
have had to throw into the hole my private fortune 
But I’m hammered I happen to have twenty thousand 
pounds worth of bonds in a New York bank 
Patrick Oh! 

Charles I must tell you that in honour I should hand it 
over to my creditors They have a moral right to it 
Alfred I’m afraid they have 

Charles You see, my solicitor agrees with me There is 
no doubt in my mind that to keep it is a most ungentle- 
manly proceeding I propose, however, to do so 
Alfred Oh, Charlie, you can’t. 

Charles Legally^ 

Alfred Legally, of course you can But not morally I 
mean, it would be frightfully bad form Your friends 
will think you a dirty dog 

Charles And with justice But after mature reflection I’ve 
come to the conclusion that that won’t impair my 
appetite or disturb my night’s rest 

[Judy again gives a little laugh 

Margery Don’t giggle, Judy This is frightfully serious 
Your father’s honour is at stake 
Charles There are two courses open to me The twenty 
thousand pounds I’ve saved from the wreck will bring 
in roughly about a thousand a year I can keep that for 
myself, and subsist modestly on the income But I th-my 
it would be rather selfish 



SCENE II 


258 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Margery My poor children. They can’t beg their bread 
in the streets of London 

Charles I have a very sensitive conscience, and Fm not 
quite sure that I should be entirely happy if at moments 
the thought crossed my mind that my wife and children 
were in want 

[Margery gives a start and looks at him wtth perplexity 
and consternation 

Margery But Charlie ♦ . 

C harles [Interrupting her ] The other course is to hand the 
entire amount to them and go out into the world alone 
and destitute The gesture would be romantic, but to 
my mind absurd I propose, therefore, to leave you 
fifteen thousand pounds and keep five thousand for 
myself The income from that will always prevent me 
from starving 

Margery But aren’t I to come with you^ 

Charles Oh, no, dear, that would be an awful bore for 
you 

Margery [Gasping ] OhI It never occurred to me for a 
moment you meant that 

Charles Didn’t it? I thought I made it quite clear 

Margery It never dawned on me Was it clear to you, 
Alfred? 

Alfred Don’t ask me, Margery I don’t know if I’m 
standing on my head or my heels, 

Margery But I don’t understand It’s the most ridiculous 
thing I ever heard in my life You can’t tell your wife 
that you’re going to leave her just like that, in the course 
of conversation. Without a row or a scene or anything 
Like a chauffeur giving notice because he wants to 
better himself. * 

Charles No, not hkc that lake* an old family retamer 



SCENE n THE BREAD-WINNER *59 

breaking it gently to his employers that advancing years 
oblige him to take a well-earned rest 

Margery Oh, it's absurd You’ve got no reason to leave 
me and the children. 

Charles I’ve been a husband and a father long enough 
I think one should always abandon an occupation when 
it has ceased to be a source of pleasure and profit 

Margery But do I bore you, Charlie^ 

Charles A bit No, that’s a he. To extinction 

Margery He’s not sane, Alfred 

Alfred Well, that’s what I’ve been thinking myself My 
belief is, Charlie, that you’re completely potty 

Charles Don’t you think I’d know if I were^ 

Margery Even their nearest and dearest don’t know some- 
times Thank God, it’s never been m my family [A 
nng on the telephone ts heard ] Oh, bother! 

Charles See who it is, Pat If it’s anyone for me I’m out 

[Patrick goes without a word 

Margery- I thought you meant me to come with you I 
thought your idea was that we should settle down in 
some place in France or Italy where we could live cheaply 
and play golf 

Charles You’d have hated that, Margery 

Margery I shouldn’t have liked it, but I am you r wife 
and if I’d really thought it my duty I’d have consented 
And, of course, we might have got to know some very 
nice people 

Charles I would never dream of asking you to make such 
a sacrifice 

[Patrick comes m 

Patrick It’s Mr Turner. I told him you were here, and 
he’s holding on. 



SCENE II 


z6o THE BREAD-WINNER 

Charles Oh, damn! 

[He goes out quickly 

Margery Oh, Alfred, what shall we dcP 
Alfred Well, my dear, I think you’d better let me have 
a talk to Charles alone I’m used to dealing with matters 
of this sort, and my experience is that it’s much better 
for a friend of both parties to step in before anything 
irreparable is said on either side 
Margery I’m so flabbergasted, Alfred I mean, it’s so 
strange that Charlie should turn after all these years 
Judy Come on, Mummy If Uncle Alfred wants us to get 
out we’d better nip before Daddy comes back 
Alfred I’m sure it’s wiser I can find out exactly how the 
land lies 

Margery If he’d made a point of my going with him I 
should have said to him, Charlie, I am not only a wife, 
but a mother I cannot leave my children And if you 
feel that I mean nothing to you any more, then you must 
go And we might have arranged an amicable separa- 
tion But if he doesn’t want me, the situation is entirely 
different 

Alfred At the first glance I don’t quite see how 
Margery It’s obvious I won’t let myself be treated like 
that for a moment I have my woman’s dignity to 
think of 

Alfred Oh, yes, of course I’d forgotten that Now you 
popoffski, my dear 
Margery Very well 

Patrick Of course, I think he’s off his chump I mean, 
to say that we’re dull, why it doesn’t begin to have 
any sense 

Margery I wonder if It would be wise to send for a doctor 
[To Judy ] Give me your father’s hat, darling 
Judy [Picking it up J Here you are 



SCENE n THE BREAD-WINNER 2&1 

Margery [Pressing it to her bosom ] It’s like a poor little 
baby brutally done to death It reminds me of those 
Armenian folk-songs 

[They go out> leaving Alfred done Charles 
re-enters 

Charles Hullo, where are the others? 

Alfred I packed them off I wanted to have a word with 
you alone 

Charles That was Bertie Turner on the ’phone 

Alfred What did he want? 

Charles [With a little smile ] H’m Good chap He and 
some of the lads have got together and they’ve offered 
to put up all the money to settle so that I can get back 
into the House 

Alfred By jingo! 

Charles J C was a good judge of character, wasn’t he> 
It’s so much harder to resist kindness than brute force 

Alfred [Eagerly ] Have you accepted? 

Charles No, I couldn’t But I was so shaken I had to be 
a bit short with him I told him to mind his own 
damned business and rang off 

Alfred Oh, Charlie, how could you be such a damned! 
fool? 

Charles Don’t nag me now, Alfred I’m a bit shattered 

Alfred I’m not going to nag you, old boy But now that 
we’re alone, let’s get down to brass tacks Gloves off 
and cards on the table, and all that sort of thing What’s 
the little game? 

Charles [Recovering himself \ I wonder what you’re talking 
about now, Alfred? 

Alfred [Very hearty ] Go on with you, Charlie Now you 
tell your Unde Alfred the truth There’s a woman 
in this Deny it if you cam 



2 6z THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE II 

Charles I do 

Alfred You can’t throw dust in Uncle Alfred’s eyes like 
that Uncle Alfred wasn’t bom yesterday If you’ve let 
your business go to old billy-o and you’re leaving your 
wife and family, it’s for a woman or I’ll eat my hat 

Charles [Good-naturedly ] Eat it then. 

Alfred Oh, come off it You can trust an old fnend. 
Fm a man of the world I know you’ve been 
married nineteen years A chap wants a change ndw 
and then I’m not going to blame you if you’ve got 
stuck on a little bit Have your fun if you want to Life 
is short and we’re dead a long time But be reasonable 
about it One doesn’t break up a happy home for a little 
bit of fluff I mean Well, you know what I mean The 
game isn’t worth the candle Don’t do it, old boy, don’t 
do it 

Charles My dear Alfred, you know more about little bits 
of fluff than I do 

Alfred [Archly ] My business brings me in contact with 
them now and then And I’m human But I never let 
them interfere with my home life No, sir 

Charles Have you ever met a little bit of fluff who was 
prepared to share the life of a middle-aged man with 
two hundred and fifty pounds a year? 

Alfred I wondered at the time if Margery hadn’t hit the 
nail on the head when she hinted that you had a tidy 
little sum tucked away somewhere. 

Charles Not a bob 

Alfred Do you mean to teU me that you expect to live on 
five quid a week? 

Charles It’s ( enough to provide me with the necessities 
of existence The good thmg about luxury is that when 
you’ve had it, you can so very easily do without it If 
I’d never had a car I should always have hankered after 



aCENE n THE BREAD-WINNER z6$ 

one I’ve had one for twenty years, and now Fm 
perfectly 'willing to walk on my flat feet But I don't 
want to waste my time on work whose only object is 
to keep body and soul together 

Alfred Well, if you're not going off with a woman Fm 
blowed if I see why you are going off? 

Charles Fm not prepared to waste the rest of my life 
doing things that bore me for people in whom I take 
no interest I hanker after my own company You see, 
I think IVe done all that I’m called upon to do for those 
dependent on me I want the future for myself 

Alfred What are you going to do with it? 

Charles I haven’t a notion Fm going to see 

Alfred You must have some idea at the back of your 
head 

Charles I have only one life When I look back and think 
of all the fellows who were killed in the war, I think 
I’d like to make more use of it than just buy and sell 
shares and make or lose a fortune 

Alfred Oh, my dear boy, you’re just talking through your 
hat We hear a lot about women leading their own lives 
I think it’s all tommy-rot myself, but there it is, and 
we’ve got to put up with it But whoever heard of a 
man leading his own life? It’s not done 

Charles Don’t you think it’s rather a pretty compliment 
we pay the other sex if we sometimes take a leaf out 
of their book? 

Alfred* Do you think I don’t get a bit restless sometimes? 
Dorothy’s the best woman m the world, but now and 
again she’s rather tiresome Women are, you know. 
And sometimes on Monday morning I don’t much want 
to go down to the office. But I say to myself, now then, 
Algy-palfy, this won’t do, you know, shoulder to the 
wheel, old boy. 



THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE II 

Charles And your reward is the esteem of your wiie and 
the respect of your fellow-citizens 

Alfred What do you suppose would happen to society 
if everybody behaved like you? I mean, it would be 
the end of progress and civilisation and the whole bag 
of tricks 

Charles I think it’s very silly to say that you should only 
do the things that you think everyone else should do 
The great majority are quite content to travel in the 
same old rut from the cradle to the grave Well, let 
them I don’t blame them 

Alfred It’s such madness to change your whole way of 
life and break up your home on a moment’s impulse 
You’ve only thought about it for a few hours 

Charles I’ve only thought about it for a few hours with 
my head I’ve thought about it for twelve years with 
my belly 

Alfred You’ll regret it You’ll never stop regretting it 

Charles One has to take that risk Who’d marry if he 
was afraid he’d regret it later? What is life, old boy, 
but a leap in the dark? 

Alfred You’ll never be happy, you know 

Charles I don’t see why not I have a capacity for enjoy- 
ment, a placid disposition and an absence of wants 
[Dorothy comes to tie garden window and looks tn 

Dorothy I’m sorry to interrupt you Margery wants to 
know what is happening 

Charles Come in Alfred and I have been having a little 
chat, but we’ve finished 

Alfred* Has Margery told you? 

Dorothy* Yes, Can she come now? 

Charles* I shall be ready in a few minutes I’m just going 
upstairs to change and pack. 



SCENE II THE BREAD-WINNER z 6 j 

Dorothy [Taken aback ] You’re not going now? 

Charles Yes When you’ve made up your mind to do a 
thing it’s only a waste of time not to do it quickly 
Alfred But you can’t go to-day, Charlie 
Charles Why not^ I’m only taking a handbag 
Alfred Your affairs are in a god-awful mess There are 
a thousand things to arrange 

Charles Nothing that I can’t leave in your hands, Alfred 
You’re a highly competent solicitor 
Alfred It looks so damned fishy, your running away like 
this I mean, there’s sure to be a bit of a rumpus It’s 
only decent for you to stay and face the music 
Charles [Gaily ] I don’t agree with you at all I think it’s 
much more elegant to slip out quietly through the 
artists’ entrance 

[Charles goes quickly and 
the curtain falls 



SCENE in 


When the curtain rises Charles, Alfred and Dorothy are 
discovered 

Alfred But you can’t go to-day, Charlie 

Charles Why noP I’m only taking a handbag 

Alfred Your affairs are in a god-awful mess There are 
a thousand things to arrange 

Charles Nothing that I can’t leave in your hands, Alfred 
You’re a highly competent solicitor 

Alfred It looks so damned fishy, your running away like 
this I mean, there’s bound to be a bit of a rumpus 
It’s only decent for you to stay and face the music 

Charles [Gaily ] I don’t agree with you at all I think it’s 
much more elegant to slip out through the artists’ 
entrance 

[Charles goes out quickly 

Dorothy Can you make head or tail of it, Alfred^ 

Alfred I think I know a thing or two about human 
nature, and I’m convinced there’s a woman in it 

Dorothy [With a quick look at him ] Have you told him 
that? 

Alfred Yes He denies it 

Dorothy [Smiling a little ] Of course, he’d do that 

Alfred How have he and Margery been getting on lately? 

Dorothy Oh, all right, like they always have Of course, 
she had her own interests and he was in the City all 
day. 1^ shouldn’t call either of them very passionate 
people.* 

«66 



SCENE III THE BREAD-WINNER 267 

Alfred Well, just the ordinary typical married couple, I 
suppose I don’t see that either of them had any thing 
to complain of 

Dorothy I shouldn’t have thought so. 

Alfred Has he been going about with anybody-* 
Dorothy I haven’t heard of it* 

Alfred You’d better ask Margery If a man’s in love with 
somebody else, his wife generally has some suspicion 
Dorothy I’m sure if she had, she’d have told me* We tell 
one another everything 

Alfred If a fellow is prepared to chuck everything, his 
business and his family and the whole bag of tricks, it 
must be for some reason 

Dorothy Oh, yes, I don’t suppose he’d do it just for fun 
Alfred I’ve been a solicitor for a good many years, and 
my experience is that there are only two things that 
matter to a normal man One’s money, and the other’s 
women 

Dorothy If anyone knows, you ought to, Alfred 
Alfred Well, I mean, what else is there? 

Dorothy You don’t think he might have some spiritual 
motive, if you know what I meam* 

Alfred Of course, there’s a possibility of that He may 
not be quite right in his head 
Dorothy I didn’t mean that exactly I was wondering if 
he isn’t doing this on account of some ideal 
Alfred Come off it, popsy-wopsy You’ve been reading 
too many novels, business men don’t do things for an 
ideal 

Dorothy He’s never been quite normal since the war 
Alfred He’s a thundering good chap, and I hate to see 
him make a damned fool of himself 
Dorothy Well, what’s to be done? 



SCENE III 


l6S THE BREAD-WINNER 

Alfred I think the only person who can do anything is 
Margery Pity she isn’t a bit more intelligent 
Dorothy It’s not easy for a woman to be intelligent with 
a man who isn’t in love with her 
Alfred Charlie’s an emotional fellow, and, hang it all, 
she’s a woman She ought to be able to get round him 
somehow 

Dorothy Five o’clock in the afternoon isn’t a very good 
time for emotion 

Alfred If you’d been mixed up in as many divorce cases 
as I have you wouldn’t say that Look here, you have 
a talk to her You can give her a lead I’ll go along and 
send her in It’s a bit awkward for me 
Dorothy I’ll do what I can 
Alfred I know you will, old gal 

[Alfred goes out Diana comes m 
Diana Hullo, Dorothyl Are you alone^ 

Dorothy Is there anything you warn? 

Diana I was looking for Uncle Charlie 
Dorothy Why^ 

Diana I just wanted to say good-bye to him 
Dorothy Oh, are you going^ 

Diana No, but I thought he was 

Dorothy Run along, darling. I’m busy If there’s anything 
to tell, I’ll tell you later 

[Margery comes m quickly , and with her first words 
Diana slips out 

Margery Alfred says you’ve got something to say to me 
Dorothy He thought I’d better speak to you before you x 
saw Charlie 

Margery Where is Charlie? 

Dorothy Upstairs He’s packing. 



SCENE III THE BREAD-WINNER 269 

Margery [Dumbfounded ] Packing^ He isn’t really going? 
Dorothy I’m afraid so 
Margery To-day? 

Dorothy Now 

Margery [With a gasp ] Oh* I never thought for a moment 
that he meant it I thought he was hysterical and just 
making a scene 

Dorothy Don’t take it too tragically, darling He’ll come 
back 

Margery What to^ He won’t have any business We 
shan’t have anything to live on 

Dorothy Had you no suspicion that anything was wrongs 
Margery With the business^ No, he never talked to me 
about it He knew I hated shop 
Dorothy No, I meant at home 

Margery No, he always seemed just the same I never 
paid much attention to him Why should I? 

Dorothy That’s true 

Margery I think it’s so frightfully selfish of him If a 
man’s lost his money, it’s his duty to work hard and 
make some more 

Dorothy D’you think he’s in love with someone eise^ 
Margery Oh, no, I should have noticed that at once I 
gave him everything he wanted in that way 
Dorothy That’s wasn’t very much, was rt? 

Margery We were very good friends We didn’t interfere 
with one another I should have called it an ideal 
marriage 

Dorothy Men are very funny You never really know what 
they want I don’t believe they know themselves 
Margery What do you mean by thaP 
Dorothy Well, I always had an idea that Charlie hankered 
after something different 



270 THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE III 

Margery I don’t know what I’ve been a perfect wife 

Dorothy Perhaps you didn’t bring enough beauty into his 
life 

Margery Dorothy, how can you be so unkind^ Oh, I 
think it’s dreadful to say a thing like that when I’m so 
upset I surrounded him with beauty Everyone knows 
how much beauty means to me Painting and books 
and all that sort of thing How about the Czecho-Slovak 
peasant industries^ I organised them It was a revelation 
of beauty And the Armenian folk-songs Who’d heard 
of Armenian folk-songs until I discovered themP No 
one’s keener about beauty than I am I’m crazy about 
it I practically made beauty in Golders Green 

Dorothy [Soothingly ] I’m dreadfully sorry, darhng I 
didn’t mean to hurt your feelings 

Margery I may not be clever, but if there’s one thing I do 
know something about, it’s beauty 

Dorothy You’ve taught me a lot, darling 

Margery What’s wrong with Charlie is that he’s got no 
sense of humour And I can’t do anything about that 

Dorothy It’s a pity Alfred can’t give him some of his 
Alfred has almost too much 

Margery Life’s so complicated 

Dorothy Alfred says you’re the only person who can do 
anything now 

Margery I’m in a frightful position, Dorothy You know 
how spiteful people are When a woman leaves her 
husband they say it’s because he was a brute, but when 
a man leaves his wife they say it’s because she couldn’* 
hold him. It’s so frightfully humiliating 

Dorothy What are you going to say to him? 

Margery I shall just appeal to his better nature After 
all, he’s a reasonable man He must see that he can’t 



SCENE III THE BREAD-WINNER ZJI 

leave the children just when they’re entering the world 
and need his help and guidance more than ever 

Dorothy Oh, my dear, men aren’t reasonable They’re 
not like women You surely know that by now The 
only way you can influence them is through their emo- 
tions I mean, the great advantage we have over them 
is that they’re weak and sentimental In your place I’d 
just be terribly pathetic I’d cling to him and just cry 
like a child 

Margery I’ve never been able to cry when I wanted to 
You know that It’s always been a handicap I hate 
slush 

Dorothy It’s no good saying that now It’s the only thing 
that gets a man every time You know what I mean 
Flatter him Be soft and loving and tender Oh, my 
dear, I could do it on my head 

Margery It’s so difficult after all these years I’m afraid 
he’d laugh 

Dorothy Ah, there we come back to the old trouble It 
is so hard to know how to take a man who has no sense 
of humour 

Margery I almost think it would be better if you saw him 
first, Dorothy I think it would be easier for you 

Dorothy But, darling, I can’t be loving and tender for you 
I mean, that’s the kind of thing you must do for yourself 

Margery Yes, I know, but you can prepare him I mean, 
you can tell him that, of course. I’m reserved and don’t 

5 show my feelings, but you know for a fact that I’m 
frightfully in love with him 

Dorothy Yes, I could do that 

Margery I daresay you’re right I suppose I haven’t 
flattered him enough One always forgets how vain 
men are 



SCENE III 


272 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Dorothy It’s fatal when one does All right, I’ll see what 
I can do I’ll call him 

Margery You’re a brick, Dorothy I shall be m the 
garden 

[Margery goes out through the french window and 
Dorothy goes to the door She opens it for a 
moment , and is lost to sight Diana slips into the 
room and tiptoes across it, but she hears her Mother’s 
voice , and slips quickly away 

Dorothy [Outside] Charhel Charlie! Will you come 
down^ I’ve got something to say to you 

[She comes back into the room She takes out her mirror 
and her lipstick and paints her kps The door opens, 
and Charles comes m He has changed into a 
lounge suit 
Charles Here I am 

Dorothy [A trifle solemnly , as though she were speaking of a 
corpse] I’ve just been talking to Margery 
Charles Yes? 

Dorothy She’s dreadfully unhappy 

Charles [Coolly ] Peeved and exasperated Not unhappy 

Dorothy You don’t know her 

Charles After nineteen years of marriage^ Don’t be silly 
I know Margery as well as it’s possible for one human 
being to know another 
Dorothy She’s very reserved 
Charles A trifle phlegmatic even 
Dorothy What a cruel thing to say, Charlie! 

Charles Not at all It’s not an unpleasant trait in a wife 
It makes for peace in the home 

Dorothy I wonder if you realise how deeply attached to 
you Margery really is 



SCENE III 


THE BREAD-WINNER 


*73 

Charles You wouldn’t say she was madly in love with 
me, would you? 

Dorothy Yes, I would I really would She adores you 
Charles Don’t talk such rubbish You know just as well 
as I do that Margery doesn’t care two hoots for me 
Dorothy No, no, no! She loves you Oh, Charlie, it’s 
such a serious step you’re taking 
Charles [With a slight change of tone ] And I’m taking it 
seriously Believe me, my dear, nothing that you can 
say is go mg to have any effect on me You’re only 
wasting your breath and my time 
Dorothy I should never forgive myself if I didn’t do every- 
thing I could to stop you 

Charles Pardon me, but exactly what business is it of 
yours^ 

Dorothy [With a little helpless gesture] Well, you see, I 
happen to know why you’re going. 

Charles I’m not surprised, considering that I took the 
greatest pains to explain it to Margery and Alfred 
Dorothy Oh, all that about freedom and not wanting to 
be a broker* You don’t suppose I believe that ? 
Charles All the same it’s the truth 
Dorothy [Softly] D’you think I haven’t got eyes in my head^ 
Charles Very handsome ones, and you make excellent 
use of them But what have they got to do with it? 
Dorothy [With a certain coyness ] Well, it’s me, isn’t it? 
Charles [Astounded] You? 

Dorothy [With self-satisfaction ] I thought it was 
Charles Why? 

Dorothy D’you think I haven’t noticed how you looked at 
me^ D’you remember kissing me the other mghtf* 
Charles Not particularly I’ve kissed you a thousand 
times 



SCENE III 


274 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Dorothy Not like that You may have thought you were 
kissing me the same as always But you weren't I 
know After all, it was me you kissed 

Charles It was quite unintentional 

Dorothy I know That’s why it gave you away* 

Charles My dear Dorothy 

Dorothy \Interruptmg] No, no, no, don’t Don’t speak 
Let me speak I know so well what you’ve got to say 
There’s Alfred, your oldest friend, and Margery, my 
first cousin, and the children — your children and my 
children Oh, it’s all hopeless, hopeless I’ve seen you 
brooding over the misery of it, and my heart has bled for 
you Oh, Charlie, Charlie, you don’t have to tell me I" 
know everything 

Charles Look here, Dorothy, you put me m a very awk- 
ward position 

Dorothy \Acting so well that for the moment she believes every 
word she says ] And d’you think you haven’t put me m an 
awkward position* What do you think I’ve been feeling 
all this time^ I’m not a stick or a stone Do you think I 
could sit there and know that those great, sad, tragic eyes 
of yours were resting upon me without being stirred to 
the depths of my souP Of course, I know that Margery 
never understood you Oh, my dear, my dear, I’ve been 
so sorry for you But, Charlie, we can do nothing 
What can we do^ 

Charles We can talk not quite so loud 

Dorothy Oh, damn! As a matter of fact there’s nobody 
about 

Charles But in point of fact why are you saying all this? 

Dorothy Don’t you know? 

Charles I haven’t a notion 

Dorothy, Oh, Charles, Charles, what a fool you must think 
me* I know you love me 



SCENE in 


THCE BREAD-WINNER 


*75 


Charles How^ 

Dorothy Intuition D’you think that ever fails a woman 
in a matter like this* 

Charles Ah, I’d forgotten that 

Dorothy \Persmdmg herself that tt ts all true ] I’ve seen your 
face grow pale with desire when you touched my hand 
IVe seen you bite your tongue in order to prevent your- 
self from speaking Oh, I know, of course you couldn't 
speak, it was so brave of you, don’t think I didn’t realise 
how brave you were, but this last moment does it matter* 
I can’t let you go without telling you that I know Don’t 
ask me to tell you that perhaps I love you too No, no, no 

Charles I don’t for a moment think you do 

Dorothy I don’t know Don’t ask me Don’t force me to 
say more than I want to Oh, Charlie, when they came 
and told me you were going away and in a flash I knew 
that it was on account of me — oh, what shall I do, I 
cried to myself It’s awful that you should make such a 
sacrifice for me I can’t bear ltl I can’t bear it! 

Charles You know, one finds after a time that one can bear 
the sacrifice that other people make for one 

Dorothy I must bear it Oh, but you don’t know what 
bitterness it is I know if I were a brave woman I would 
throw everything to the winds and come with you 
Don’t ask me to do that, Charlie Don’t tempt me 

Charles* No, no 

Dorothy You’re so wonderful It’s no good pretending to 
be something I’m not I haven’t the courage After all 
I’ve got a husband who loves me and two children who 
worship the ground I tread on, and then there’s my 
position in Golders Green I know I’m weak* I know 
you’ll despise me, but perhaps also some day you’ll 
find room in your heart for a little pity 



276 THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE III 

Charles I’m sure you’re very happy with Alfred 
Dorothy Happyl Happy! Who is happy^ Oh, I think life 
is so sad 

Charles It has moments when one seems justified in taking 
a moderately cheerful view of things 
Dorothy Oh, you’re bitter I’ve disappointed you It’s 
no good, Charlie I can’t run away with you Be sensible, 
old boy, what should we live on? Is it true that you’ll 
only have five pounds a week^ 

Charles Quite true 

Dorothy It’s no good, darling I know you’ll think me 
hard and worldly, I’m only being cruel to be kind 
Love can’t live on five pounds a week It would be 
criminal to put it to such a test You do understand, 
don’t you^ 

Charles Quite 

Dorothy It would be different if you had a hundred 
thousand pounds tucked away in a Swiss bank 
Charles Quite, quite 

Dorothy I’m not really cynical, you know Only I am a 
woman, and I know what money means 
Charles I always think that is one of the most delightful 
characteristics of your sex 

Dorothy Don’t feel hardly towards me, Charlie Don’t 
make my suffering still harder to bear 
Charles I’m sure you’re right 

Dorothy I know I’m right, and one of these days you’ll 
realise it Perhaps in years to come we shall meet again, 
in Pans or somewhere, and then, who knows^ Perhaps 
you will have forgotten me 
Charles Oh, no 

Dorothy And perhaps, perhaps t shall say to you, God 
knows I’ve suffered, God knows I’ve tned to do my 
duty, but there are limits to human endurance Perhaps 



SCENE III 


THE BREAD-WINNER 


* 77 


I shall say, Charlie, Charlie, we’ve waited long enough, 
we have such a little time before us, let us accept the 
happiness that chance has so mysteriously thrown in 
our way 

Charles Now, I think, if you don’t mind. I’ll just go up 
and finish my packing 

Dorothy I can’t let you go without giving you something 
to remember me by Charlie, kiss me on the mouth 
[Charles looks round the room with embarrassment, 
he is very nervous m case someone should come m by 
the door or the french window Then he kisses 
Dorothy full on the lips She flings her arms round 
his neck He takes her hands and releases himself 
Dorothy I have given you more than my body, Charlie, 
I have given you my soul Good-bye Good-bye for 
ever 

[She walks swiftly out into the garden , with heroic 
courage mastering her emotion Charles stands 
for a moment , smiling wryly after her, he passes a 
finger round his collar , which seems rather tight for 
him , and then , smiling a little still , walks towards 
the door to go upstairs Just as he is about to turn 
the handle the door is opened, he starts as Diana 
comes in and almost treads on him 
Charles Hullo, what are you doing there> 

Diana I’ve just been hanging about till Dorothy was out 
of the way I’ve got something I want to say to you 
Charles Fare away 

Diana Has she been trying to vamp you> 

Charles It would be rather late in the day for that 
Diana. I bet she thinks you’re leaving Aunt Margery on 
her account 

Charles You’ve been listening, Dinah, my dear. Not a 
very pretty trick. 



SCENE III 


278 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Diana Don't be stuffy, darling I don't have to listen at 
doors to know what Dorothy's saying 
Charles Mutual sympathy, I suppose One of the dis- 
advantages of a united family 
Diana Poor Dorothy has reached the age when women 
think every man they meet is in love with them It's 
such a bore when they get like that It makes them so 
unpunctual 
Charles Oh, why? 

Diana You see, they start doing their face and they say, 
Oh, my God, my face is awful to-day, and they start 
again, and they go on and on, and by the time they've 
given it up as a bad job they've kept you waiting for 
hours 

Charles My dear, I've still got a few things to pack What 
was it exactly you wanted to say to me ? 

Diana Oh, don't you like general conversation^ 

Charles Is that what it was^ I thought you were making 
a few tart remarks on your mother 
Diana I adore Dorothy I'm sorry for her You know, 
I think it's so pathetic her gratitude when she can per- 
suade herself she's got off with somebody 

Charles It's nice of you to be so sympathetic I must 
bolt now Good-bye, my dear We've had a jolly little 
chat 

Diana Oh, but I haven't started yet I've been trying to 
get you alone for the last hour 
Charles You know, I'm going away to-night 
Diana Yes Would you like me to come with you? 
Charles What for ? 

Diana Company 

Charles That's awfully sweet of you, but I shall manage 
all right by myself. 



SCENE in THE BREAD-WINNER 279 

Diana Won’t you be awfully lonely by yourselP 
Charles After being married nineteen years I’m used to 
loneliness 

Diana. A girl’s different from a wife, you know, 

Charles Quite Even more of a nuisance* 

Diana I’d look after myself I wouldn’t be any trouble 
to you 

Charles Whatever put such an idea into your head, 
Dinahs 

Diana I’m so bored at home After all, I’m eighteen, and 
the time’s just flying, and I’m getting nowhere I want 
to get out into the world and do something 
Charles That’s all right, but a married gentleman in the 
early forties is hardly the best companion for such an 
adventure 
Diana Why not? 

Charles My dear, ancient as I am, I’m afraid it would be 
difficult to persuade the people we ran across that my 
relation towards you was simply paternal 
Diana I’m not a damned fool, darling Of course I’d come 
as your mistress 

Charles Oh, I see It hadn’t occurred to me that you 
meant that 

Diana I think you must be rather stupid, darling 
Charles To tell you the truth I don’t want a mistress* 
Diana Why no P You’re not so old as all that 
Charles I should prefer any attachments I make to be of 
a strictly temporary nature 

Diana You could always chuck me if you got sick of me 
Charles Women are so clinging. 

Diana Don’t you think I’m attractive? 

Charles Very 



2%0 THE BREAD-WINNER SCENE IH 

Diana And I am a virgin, you know 
Charles* 1 guessed that 

Diana [. Somewhat hurt ] I don’t know why It’s just an 
accident Lots of girls of my age aren’t 
Charles I think it’s a pleasing trait in the young unmarried 
female 

Diana That’s rather middle-aged of you, darling 
Charles I am rather middle-aged, my pet 
Diana Tim is, too 
Charles What^ Middle-aged^ 

Diana No, a virgin I think it’s rather chic in a boy, 
Charles It doesn’t mterest me so much 
Diana He says he’s going to wait for Potiphar’s wife to 
make the usual advances to him, and then it’ll be such 
a pleasant surprise for her 

Charles Or contrariwise Innocence is charming in theory, 
but in practice experience has many advantages 
Diana You’re not going to turn me down^ 

Charles You bet your life I am 

Diana You needn’t hesitate because you’re afraid I don’t 
realise what I’m up against I should go into it with 
my eyes open, you know 

Charles I wasn’t thinking of you I was thinking entirely 
of myself I should be a fool to jump out of a tepid 
frying-pan into a red-hot fire 
Diana It would be such a lark 

Charles It wouldn’t really I haven’t a bean, you know 
Love can’t live on five pounds a week 

Diana Hullo, that sounds like Dorothy Have you been 
asking her to run away with you? 

Charles Certainly not 
Diana Swear to God? 



SCENE III THE BREAD - VINNER zBl 

Charles Cross me heart 

Diana All right As a matter of fact, Fve thought of that 
You wouldn’t have any silly prejudices about my 
keeping you, would you? 

Charles Not at all I trust that in the well-regulated 
society of the future that will be the universal practice 
Women with their executive ability and natural industry 
will toil from blushing dawn to dewy eve and leave men 
free to devote themselves to art and literature and the 
less violent form of athletics 

Diana Don’t talk Listen to what Fve thought You know 
everyone says I dance divinely I can easily get up stage 
dancing and then I’ll get engagements at the Casinos 
m France and Italy 

Charles I don’t believe there’s much money in that, do 
you? I’ve always said that if I was kept by a woman 
Pd want to be kept in style 

Diana No, but wait That’s why I said I’d get engage- 
ments at Casinos A lot of rich men go to them and when 
I see that there’s one attracted to me I can lure him on, 
and then at the psychological moment you can come 
in and say. What are you doing with my daughter? 
D’you see what I mean? 

Charles Yes, that’s all right in the pictures, but in real 
life it always ends you up in jug It’s no good, Dinah, 
I’d never have the nerve for that 

Diana I suppose that means that you don’t want me at 
any price? 

Charles To be frank with you, it does [She gives a deep 
sigh ] Oh, come on, don’t sigh 

Diana I’m so frightfully disappointed 

Charles You’d be bored stiff with me in a month And 
where would you be then? 



SCENE III 


ZBZ THE BREAD-WINNER 

Diana I could always have left you After all, you're not 
the only man in the world I don't suppose it would 
have lasted for ever, but while it did, it might have been 
rather lovely 

Charles I think in your place I'd wait till some suitable 
young man comes along, and marry him You can 
always see then, you know 

Diana I can't understand why you hesitate I should have 
thought it such a snip 

Charles To run away with you? No, it's not my idea of 
a snip at all 

Diana You haven't got moral scruples, have you? 

Charles Do you think it would be very nice of me to bolt 
with the daughter of an old friend and she only just 
out of the schoolroom, so to speaP 

Diana Everybody’s the daughter of someone, and surely 
it's better to run away with a girl than with an old hag 

Charles I imagine it’s more agreeable 

Diana If you won’t have me because you think it's dis- 
honourable or rot like that, I think it's simply foul of 
you I mean that’s just stuffy and frightfully middle-class 

Charles Oh, d’you think it is^ 

Diana Of course I’d never forgive you if it was that 

Charles I’m sorry 

Diana But if it’s just that I don't appeal to you sexually, 
then I don’t mind a bit I mean, it's rotten for me, of 
course, but that’s the sort of thing you can't help, and 
I must lump it Is that it? 

Charles My dear, that’s not a very nice thing for a man, 
even a middle-aged one, to say to a girl of eighteen 

Diana Oh, shut upf It never occurred to me that you 
might . * * 


[She sttfies a little sob 



SCENE III THE BREAD-WINNER 283 

Charles Good God! What are you doing^ You’re not 
crying^ What on earth are you crying £oP 
Diana You see, I’m so frightfully in love with you 
Charles [With astonishment ] With me? You never said 
that before 

Diana I didn’t want to appeal to your emotions I wanted 
to make it practically a business proposition I’m simply 
crazy about you 

Charles [Angrily] You damned little fool, what rot is 
this you’re talking now^ 

Diana It isn’t rot I’m madly in love with you. 

Charles Well, you jolly well stop it. I never heard such 
nonsense 

Diana I can’t help it 

Charles Yes, you can help it You’re just a silly, hysterical, 
sloppy schoolgirl What you want is a thorough spank- 
ing, and by George, if I weren’t in such a hurry, I’d 
damned well give it you myself 
Diana [ Smiling through her tears] You are rather sweet, 
you know 

Charles Upon my soul [Changing his mood and laughing ] 
Don’t be a little idiot, Diana Fancy falling in love with 
a f unn y old thing like me You ought to be ashamed 
of yourself 

Diana Fm not And I can’t help it I’ve got an awful thing 
about you I think you’re so frightfully attractive 
Charles Why^ 

Diana Well, you have no' sense of humour 
C h arles You’re not going to tell me that you fell in love 
with me because I had no sense of humour 
Diana Yes, madly You knew you had no sense of humour, 
didn’t you> 

Charles I didn’t, to tell you the truth. 



SCENE III 


284 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Diana People who haven’t seldom know it Funny, isn’t 
it? You see, all my family have so much, sometimes it’s 
almost unbearable I love you for not having it You 
can understand that, can’t you? 

Charles Perfectly But what a bore it would have been 
if you’d discovered you’d made a mistake when it was 
too late? 

Diana How d’you mean? 

Charles Well, you see, our happiness might have been 
shattered if I’d made a joke 

Diana [Tenderly ] Perhaps I shouldn’t have seen it You 
know, one often doesn’t see the jokes of people who 
have no sense of humour 

Charles I think it’s just as well not to have taken the 
risk 

Diana You might kiss me once, will you? 

Charles Of course, and then I really must see about my 
packing 

[He goes to her, and ts about to put his arms round her 
She looks at his lips , peering a little , then she passes 
her forefinger over them and smells it 

Diana I wish Dorothy wouldn’t use such beastly lip-stick 
Wipe your mouth, darling 

[She takes hts handkerchief out of his pocket and wtpes 
his lips She throws her arm round hts neck and 
offers him her lips, but he takes her head m his hands 
and kisses her good-humouredly first on one cheek and 
then on the other She sighs as he releases her 

Diana Lend me your comb, will you? 

Charles My comb? I haven’t got one 

Diana Then what do you do when you’re out somewhere 
and want to comb your hair? All the boys I know carry 
one Darling, I could have taught you so much 



SCENE HI THE BREAD-WINNER z8j 

Charles [With a glance at his watch ] Where do you suppose 
Pat and Judy are^ 

Diana Judy's in the garden I don't know where Pat is 
[Charles goes to the french window and calls 

Charles Judy, [To Diana ] I wish you'd ask Margery to 
come here 

Diana All right I don't care if you are angry, I think 
you're terribly attractive 

Charles Go to hell, 

[As she ts going out > Judy enters 

Judy Did you call me, Daddy^ 

Charles Yes I'm just going to have a little chat with 
your mother I wish you'd go upstairs and see that 
Johnston is packing my things all right I put everything 
I wanted on the bed 

Judy Right-ho! 

Charles And when the bag is ready tell her to put it in 
the car 

Judy D’you want me to drive you down to the stations 

Charles No, better let the chauffeur Where’s Pat^ 

Judy He's locked himself up in his room He’s eating 
butter-scotch He's sulking 

C harles If butter-scotch makes him sulk, why does he 
eat tt? 

Judy He isn't sulking because he's eating butter-scotch, 
he's sulking because you said he was a bore 

Charles I didn't blame him for it I merely stated it as 
an interesting fact 

Judy You couldn't expect him to like it I didn't either 
I’ve been thinking it over Do you know, Fve got 
rather a ghastly suspicion about you, Daddy? 

Charles Ohl What is it? 



SCENE in 


*86 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Judy Well, I’ve got a ghastly suspicion that perhaps you’ve 
got more sense of humour than any of us quite 
realised 

Charles P Oh, my dear, what makes you think thaP 
Judy I don’t know It’s made me rather uneasy I mean, 
it would be rather comic if all this time you’d been 
laughing at us up your sleeve Isn’t it funny^ I like you 
better now than I’ve ever liked you before 
Charles I don’t know why 

Judy*- Well, I suppose the fact is that now you’re doing the 
dirty on us you seem so much more human 
Charles H’m! 

Judy Do I surprise you^ You see, you don’t know me. 
Daddy I suppose it’s impossible for a father to know 
his daughter 

Charles Do people ever know one another^ 

Judy I think when they’re in love they think they do 
Charles And are never more mistaken 

Judy Were you in love with Mummy when you married 
hep 

Charles Oh yes Crazy about her 
Judy I suppose love can’t be expected to last for ever 
Charles I suppose not I think that’s the only real tragedy 
in life Deaths Well, one expects death But when one’s 
in love, one never expects love to die It makes life look 
such a sell, 

Judy I wonder why it doesn’t last? 

Charles, Habit kills it 

Judy, Dinah and I have often discussed whether It wouldn’t 
be better to have affairs than to marry* 

Charles There’s not much in it An affair 1$ just as tiresome 
and more inconvenient* 



SCENE m THE BREAD-WINNER Z% J 

Judy Pity you’re going just now There are a lot of things 
I should have liked to ask you 

Charles Why have you never asked me before? 

Judy One can’t talk to one’s father It’s only because I 
don’t look upon you as my father any more that I can 
treat you as a human being Of course, parents and 
children bore one another They never talk to us of 
the things that interest them, and we never talk to them 
of the things that matter to us 

Charles If we ever meet again we must try to forget our 
unfortunate relationship You will be an engaging 
young woman I’ve run across by chance, and I shall 
be an elderly gentleman in reduced circumstances who 
once knew your mother 

Judy I daresay we shall find we have quite a lot to say to 
one another 

Charles For my part I should like to tell you that I shall 
be delighted to renew the acquaintance we’ve so un- 
expectedly made It’s been charming to meet you 

Judy Daddy, why are you going away? It’s for your soul’s 
sake, isn’t it? 

Charles That sounds rather pretentious and high-falutin’, 
doesn’t it ? 

Judy Does that matter? Just for once and within these 
four walls, 

Charles Well, perhaps it is I have so few years before me 
It seems a pity to waste them Have you ever had an 
awful lot of letters to write and only ten minutes to 
catch the post? You don’t write the most important 
ones from the standpoint of eternity, but only the 
important ones to you Perhaps they’re quite trivial, 
making a date or answering an invitation, but they are 
all you have time for The others must go to the devtL 
I only have time now to do what I urgently want to do. 



SCENE III 


288 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Judy You've got your chance You'd be a fool not to 
take it I don't blame you In your place I'd do what 
you're doing 

Charles You're a good girl, Judy 

Judy You've given me my chance, too I never wanted to 
be a young lady Coming out and going to parties, 
getting married and going to parties I want to go on 
the stage 

Charles Are you prepared to work^ It isn't just doing 
your bit in a play and then going to supper at the Savoy 
It’s a whole time job 

Judy Oh yes. I'll work 

Charles Well, be natural, that's the chief thing 

Judy That ought to be easy 

Charles It isn't It's the result of infinite pains It's the 
final triumph of artifice And remember that society 
only looks upon you as a freak and the moment you’re 
out of fashion drops you like a hot potato Society has 
killed more good actors than drink It's only your raw 
material Let the footlights, at least spiritually, always 
hold you aloof These are the last solemn words that a 
father whispers in his daughter's shell-like ear as he is 
about to leave her for ever 

Judy Why for ever* When I'm a celebrated actress with 
a princely salary and you a broken-down old reprobate, 
I shall be always pleased to offer you a home in my 
palatial fiat 

Charles That's sweet of you Here is your mother Nip 
along, darling, and when my packing's finished come 
and tell me 

Judy Right-hoi Bless you. Daddy Have a good time, 

Charles Same to you, my pet. 



SCENE III THE BREAD-WINNER zS$ 

[She slips out of the door as Margery comes m from 
the garden Charles goes towards her and takes 
her hand 

Come and sit down, Margery 
Margery Is it true you’re going away to-day? 

Charles Yes 

Margery You’re deliberately breaking my heart 
Charles My dear, for the first time in our lives we’re going 
to have a serious talk It’ll be so much easier if we say 
nothing that we don’t mean 
Margery But I love you, Charlie 

Charles No, dear, that’s not true If you still had for me 
that hungry craving of the soul they call love, I think 
it’s possible I shouldn’t have the courage to leave you 
Margery I’ve never loved anybody in my life but you 
Charles I daresay not, but that isn’t quite the same thing 
Margery I don’t know what you mean by love 
Charles I think you do You were in love with me once 
just as I was in love with you, and one doesn’t forget 
Margery You can’t expect me to be the same as I was 
nineteen years ago It would be absurd if I were still 
the love-sick girl I was then 
Charles And extremely tiresome. 

Margery Love isn’t everything I mean, there’s com- 
panionship and mutual confidence and all that I’ve 
always had a great affection for you I often thought 
what a picture we made of a happy and domestic 
couple Why, I don’t believe we’ve even had a squabble 
for ten years 

Cha rles I wonder it didn’t make you a little uneasy 
Doesn’t it strike you that two people must be profoundly 
indifferent to one another if they never find occasion to 
disagree? 



SCENE III 


290 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Margery I don’t know how you can be so ungrateful 
Don’t you realise that if we got on so well it was entirely 
due to my wonderful tact^ Believe me, it wasn’t always 
so easy You were very different when you came back 
from the war 

Charles We were both very different Or perhaps we 
weren’t different at all, but we’d been separated for five 
years and we saw one another for the first tune as we 
really were 

Margery I don’t know what you mean by that I’d 
developed a lot during the war I wanted to do my bit, 
and I don’t see how anyone can deny that I did it Most 
people thought I was so much improved 

Charles Out of all recognition, my dear We were 
strangers to one another We had to start making one 
another’s acquaintance all over again from the beginning 
I don’t think we liked one another very much 

Margery I was a little disappointed in you, I don’t mind 
admitting it Fortunately I have imagmation I re- 
member how disgusted I was when once you dropped a 
piece of bread and butter on the ground and picked it 
up and ate it as though nothing had happened But I 
said, that’s the war, and I made allowances 

Charles It’s very difficult for two people who are not in 
love with one another to live together It’s funny what 
trivial things get on their nerves 

Margery It wasn’t trivial at all It was deeply significant 
of the change that had taken place in you You’d lost 
all your beautiful idealism. Why, you weren’t even 
patriotic any more You drank too much and your 
language was filthy 

Charles, I suppose my nerves were a bit groggy You 
were very patient with me. 



SCENE HI THE BREAD-WINNER 2$I 

Margery I made up my mind that I must be When the 
Armistice came, the war was over for you, but I had to 
go on doing my bit just the same And there were 
thousands of women in England like me I’ve been a 
good and faithful wife to you I think I have the right to 
some consideration 

Charles Perhaps we’ve both been too good and faithful 
You know, of course, that the Tasmanians, who never 
committed adultery, are now extinct 
Margery No, I didn’t And I’m not interested in the 
Tasmanians I think it’s frightfully callous of you to 
mention them when I’m so upset 
Charles You mustn’t think I’m not sorry to cause you 
annoyance 

Margery Did you say annoyance* 

Charles I did I think your vanity is hurt by my leaving 
you I don’t believe your heart is much concerned 
Margery What’s the good of my telling you I love you if 
you don’t believe a word I say? 

Charles I shall believe you if you speak the truth 
Margery How can I speak the truth when I’m taken by 
surprise like this I don’t know what the truth is The 
whole thing has come as such a shock to me It never 
occurred to me that you weren’t absolutely satisfied I 
always looked upon ours as an ideal marriage I don’t 
know what more you wanted 
Charles Like Queen Victoria I was not amused 
Margery You can’t expect marriage to be amusing If it 
were, the law wouldn’t protect it and the church wouldn’t 
sanctify it Do you think women find marriage amusing* 
They’ve been bored stiff by it for a thousand generations 
Half the women I know are so bored by their husbands 
that they could scream at the sight of them, 

Charles Why do they stick it? 



SCENE III 


292 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Margery* Because everybody else sticks it Because 
marriage is like that They get used to it Because it 
always has been and always will be their only respectable 
means of livelihood And because of the children 
I think it’s awful that you should condemn your 
innocent children to poverty just because you want to 
have a good time 

Charles I’m giving you fifteen thousand pounds 

Margery It isn’t even yours to give 

Charles Morally, of course, it belongs to my creditors, but 
they have no legal claim to it 

Margery How can tainted money bring one any enduring 
benefit^ 

Charles If you feel uneasy about it, you are at perfect 
liberty to hand it over to them, but I tell you frankly that 
I shall stick to the five thousand I’m keeping for myself 

Margery Are you sure your creditors couldn’t get it by 
going to law^ 

Charles Quite 

Margery If I only had myself to think of, for the sake of 
your honour I would give it to them without a moment’s 
hesitation But my children have a prior claim on me 
For their sake I shall certainly keep it 

Charles I think you’re very sensible 

Margery But how you expect me to live on seven hundred 
and fifty a year, less income tax, I can’t imagine 

Charles I don’t see why you shouldn’t be very happy. 

Margery The position of a woman whose husband has run 
away from her isn’t very nice 

Charles Tell your friends that I’ve had a nervous break- 
down* and had to go abroad, 



SCENE III THE BREAD-WINNER 

Margery You know what people are They always fh tnfr 
the worst They’ll say there’s a warrant for your arrest, 
or that you’ve gone off with a chorus girl You can’t 
blame them It’s natural they should And I almost wish 
it were true That would at least be normal I could 
understand that 

Charles Do you really think that I’m called upon to go on 
working indefinitely in order, not to provide my wife 
and children with the necessities of existence, but with 
luxuries they can very well do without? 

Margery It’s what one naturally expects a man to do 

Charles And what about life? Where does that come in? 

Margery I don’t understand what you mean That is life 
The ordinary man gets his pleasure by providing his 
family with the things they want I mean, that’s his 
normal existence 

Charles And do you think it’s worth while? 

Margery Why, of course it is Otherwise everybody 
wouldn’t do it After all, it’s no hardship to work It’s 
the only thing that brings enduring happiness There’s 
beauty m doing your duty in that state of life in which 
a merciful Providence has been pleased to place you 
And after all, beauty is the thing that counts* There’s 
beauty in the commonplace round of every day 

Charles Not much in selling stocks and shares 

Margery Oh, yes, there is I mean, we must take a 
s piri tual view of things I’ve always been frightfully 
keen on that, and it’s been a bitter disappointment to 
me that you were incapable of entering into that side 
of my life My Czecho-Slovak peasant industries and the 
Armenian folk-songs and so on Dorothy was only 
saying to me just now, I practically made beauty in 
Golders Gteen. 

Charles You’re a remarkable woman, Margery 



SCENE in 


Z94 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Margery No, Fm not, but I’m not a fool, and no one has 
ever called me a png I daresay I’ve thought about 
these things a little more deeply than you have. Fm an 
idealist 1 think it's so ugly to be selfish You can only 
get permanent satisfaction from life if you live for 
others I mean, it's only by forgetting yourself and 
living only for Pat and me and Judy that you can hope to 
achieve any real happiness I don’t suppose you’ll 
listen to me, there are none so deaf as those that won’t 
hear, but one day you’ll confess I was right It’s in self- 
sacrifice that a man fulfils himself It’s in giving all he has 
to those who are near and dear to him that he solves the 
riddle of life and makes out of his poor little existence a 
thing of beauty 

Charles Margery, you’re priceless 

[Judy comes m 

Judy Daddy! 

Margery Run along, darling Your father and I are 
talking 

Judy I only came to say that everything was packed. 
Daddy J ohnson is putting your bag m the car 

Charles Oh, good Then nothing remains but for me to 
say good-bye 

Margery But you’re not going now^ 

^HARtES Yes, 

,JMarg|ry But you can’t I haven’t said half the things I 
wanted to say I haven’t begun yet We must thresh the 
matter out 


Charles My dear, we’ve discussed love, Ifauty, work and 
thh economic situation What else is thete? * 

Margery\3§% not fa|r, I mean, it’s so fearfully sudden If 
I’d onlyhad time! to get used to the sitgJioi% perhaps I 
shouldnfyia|[e minded^ much. > 



SCENE III THE BREAB-VINNER 295 

Charles My dear, f ou must look upon me like a fellow- 
passenger on a ship that you’ve seen a lot of during the 
trip But the ship reaches port and you and he go your 
separate ways 

Margery Oh, don’t talk like that I always think ships 
are so terribly pathetic I shall cry 

Judy Yes, have a good cry. Mummy, it‘ll do you good 

Margery I know I could get you to stay if I could only 
think of the right things to say I was so unprepared 

Charles My dear, you’d never think of the right things to 
say, because in your heart you don’t want me to stay I 
shouldn’t go with such a kindly feeling towards you if I 
didn’t feel that there’s somewhere stirring in you the 
thrill of a new adventure 

Margery It’s no good crying over spilt milk, is it? 

Charles Good-bye, Margery 

[He kisses her on the cheek She gives it to him listlessly > 
as she has done for years 

Margery It seems so strange your going like this I 
simply don’t know what to make of it 

Judy Johnston said^you didn’t want your tails, but*I told 
her to pack them 

Charles Oh, wky ? They’ll be quite useless to me * 

Judy You never kneftv You mignt want tt> be a ^yaitej 

Charles Thoughtful child That, had never occurred to 
me 

MargeIIy* Charhel You can’t be a waiter 

f ♦ * 

Charles ^hy not^ When I’m up againstdr I’ll take any 

job I can I’m prepared to*be I bar-tender, a mason, a 
aouse-painter or a steward on a ship 



SCENE III 


Z96 THE BREAD-WINNER 

Margery How can you ? Think of the people you’ll have 
to mix with 

Charles I have in point of fact a particular fancy to be a 
commercial traveller 

Margery Oh, Charlie, how infra dtg What will you travel 

trP 

Charles Romance 

Margery How unpractical 

Judy But what fun 

Charles Good-bye, Judy 

Judy Good-bye, darling Bless youl 

[He kisses her and goes out qtucklj 
Sargery Judy, I don’t feel at all well. 

The End